Metatalktail Hour: Childhood Fun July 6, 2019 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! This week, I want to know your favorite things to do as a child. Can kids still do that today? If you were a kid today, what would you be itching to do?

As always, this is a conversation starter, not limiter, so tell us everything that's up with you! And send me ideas for future Metatalktails!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to MetaFilter-Related at 5:34 PM (56 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

(1990s, medium-sized Midwestern city) Tree climbing. All the time. We were always careful to get permission from neighbors, plus there were plenty of city parks and such around.

I wish parkour had been a thing back then, though I suppose I would've been much more likely to have broken a bone at some point. (I didn't break anything until after university, when I broke a finger doing handstands in the front yard with one of my housemates.)
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:01 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Nothing that any adult wanted me to do.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:04 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Going to the grocery store with my dad was a really big deal. I just enjoyed spending time with him. And when I was really little and he would get home from work I would take his hand and show him around the house and what I had done all day. I would switch back and forth between his two hands from side-to-side chattering away!

I'm recovering from a recent surgery in early June that was followed by an infection that is now about 75% healed. But now I'm also struggling to recover from contact dermatitis from wearing bandages for so long. Meanwhile I'm job hunting and I've had to go on one interview with a jacket on that irritated the dermatitis which is on my arm. I see the doctor again on Monday. I am so ready for this to be over! I want my arm
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 6:15 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


When we were about 10, we were allowed to go to the pool on our own, we'd stuff our towels and changes of clothes into our backpacks, grab our pool passes and a quarter to call home, and ride our bikes to the local pool, which was right behind the junior high and very accessible along safe local roads by bike. We'd go after lunch and stay until nearly dinner. (We all rode 10-speed Schwinns, which were The Bike to get when your parents deemed you big enough for a "real bike.")

I moved back to my hometown almost 2 years ago, the same pool is still open, they still sell season-long pool passes, and kids are still there for half the day by themselves, although these days they seem to be about 13ish before they're allowed to go alone. My oldest and his dad rode their bikes to the pool the other day, and he thought was awesome, riding his bike in his bathing suit and getting to go by bike both ways.

(The bike store I got my red 10-speed Schwinn at for my 10th birthday is actually still open! I was there the other day picking up some accessories for my new bike. It's weird being back in my hometown, yo.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:17 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


I also just remembered that when I was at the grocery store with my dad if we had a question about what to buy I was given the responsibility of taking a quarter to the pay phone and calling my mother. The employees knew us and I always said hello to the manager who was behind the desk near the phone.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 6:18 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


And speaking of it being weird to be back in my hometown, my high school band director retired after 30 years this year, and there was a retirement concert + celebration for him a couple weeks ago, and since I was right in town I was able to go, and it was really lovely! Band was where I made all my best friends in high school, and this teacher was really influential in my life, so it was super-nice to be able to attend. I saw a bunch of people I'd gone to high school with and had a lot of fun catching up, but I also ran into (and sat with!) my little sister's BFF and her husband and got to see pictures of their new baby and saw a bunch of my brothers' friends and my mom's friends and it was very BLAST FROM THE PAST and like "Oh my god, the last time I saw you you were six and I was babysitting you and now you have two children ...!" (I started college when my youngest brother was in first grade.)

I am very much NOT a high-school booster who's ever involved in any alumni stuff at all (I liked high school fine, but I don't have the urge to revisit it), but this was My People, and it was a cross-generational My People, all my best bandie friends, with people who were MY babysitters when I was little and people I used to babysit and their parents and their children and it was just really nice.

And that's actually the nice part of being back in my hometown, when I'm at the supermarket and I run into women I used to babysit for and they tell me my old babysitting charges just had their first babies, or I'm at the gas station and my youngest brother's best friend from high school pulls up to the other side of the same pump and is like "OMG EYEBROWS, I'm in town to see my parents!" and I'm like "I haven't seen you since you had braces and a mullet!" and I go to the elementary school to sign my kid up for orchestra and the orchestra director is the same one I had 30 years ago and there's lots of hugging. My parents have lived here for 40 years so we know a lot of people.

So the people part of being back is great, although the rest of it is super-weird!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:28 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


There were built-in shelves in my bedroom that went to the ceiling. I'd climb to the top and launch myself off, doing a forward flip onto my bed below. I also used to create paints under the front porch by mixing different color dirts and stone dust and then pressing them really hard into little 'disks' to sell.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:51 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


We were free range kids, expected to stay out of the house until it was time to eat. Starting really young--about age eight which I know because of the bike I was using--I used to love to get lost, intentionally, throughout late 60s/early 70s greater Boston. The older I got, the further afield I went. If I had, say, three hours until dinner, I'd ride away for 75 minutes trying to choose strange roads and then use the remaining 105 minutes to find my way home, preferably by a different route. Sometimes my brother and I would do it together; we enjoy exploring new places together to this day and go on road trips together about once a year. My parents were always surprised by how often I knew where we were even when we were traveling somewhere distant or new. I have a tremendous sense of direction and eventually went into city planning. Coincidence? I think not!
posted by carmicha at 7:33 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


I was pretty much a feral child, at least compared with kids today, but mostly I sat around and read. I pretty much read every children's book in the library, except for the ones with talking animals, because I was vehemently opposed to talking animals. I was not dumb, and I knew that animals didn't talk. (I also knew that time travel didn't exist, but that didn't stop me from reading a ton of time-travel books. I was vehement but not consistent.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:34 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


My neighbourhood had really deep back yards, lots of space. So of course we kids played lawn darts. Proper heavy murdery lawn darts with the metal shafts. The kind that have been banned in Canada since 1989. Good times.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:51 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


I grew up on military bases, so as an elementary schooler, I had free range to go anywhere I wanted so long as I stayed on post. I'd wander through the wooded area near the house, splash happily in the creek, ride my bicycle to old abandoned warehouses and the library and the pool and the little post store. In sixth grade, my friends and I would wander through the hospital (usually trying to find the secret entrance to the morgue but always ending up at the snack bar for fries) and explore endless underground culverts, and engage in miniature-scale arson, and when neighbors moved from their homes, we'd open the unlocked doors and wander through the empty houses, inhaling their fresh paint and shiny polyurethaned wooden floors, and we'd rollerskate in their empty, pristine abandoned garages.

I loved having that much safety and independence. It was a bit of a jolt moving to town when I was 13.

In other news, my surgery was coming up on three weeks ago (moved back from May) and it was overwhelmingly successful and I am home now and healing fine, though unable to lift more than 15 lbs at a time. I'm grateful for all the #meficardclub cards I received, which were all wonderful! I am overdue in answering memails, but please know that I appreciated every good thought sent my way.

Life feels so different now after the surgery. I had giant polycystic kidneys that were each about football sized, together weighing a whopping 11 pounds! Imagine walking around with a bowling ball bungeed to your torso. It was awful and exhausting. So I had both of them removed, and although this imposes new limitations (I was already on dialysis) and while I am still technically in recovery, I already have so much more energy and so much less pain now, and so much more optimism for my future.

Also it's so lovely to wear normal clothes again and not look like I am trying to smuggle a thanksgiving turkey under my t-shirt.

La la la!
posted by mochapickle at 8:04 PM on July 6 [24 favorites]


Bike rides around my suburban neighborhood. For most of my childhood, this involved a girl's 3-speed Schwinn Stingray. I'd promise to stay on the sidewalk and walk it across crosswalks and I'd keep that promise until I was out of sight of the house. I spent HOURS riding the very quiet suburban streets around my elementary school all by myself, and it was GLORIOUS.

If I wasn't doing that, I was reading.
posted by hanov3r at 8:12 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Oh my gosh! I completely forgot. I used to love to put on shows in my bedroom. I would make the tickets and give them to my parents. Then I would take the tickets from them at of the door. I would take them inside take the tickets and do my performance. So much fun!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:38 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


When I was a single-digits-year-old kid I used to explore in the woods. I lived in the suburbs of NYC so my options were limited but when I found the nearest creek to me, I explored miles up- and downstream of me. I started surprising my mom when we'd be a few towns away and I'd say, "I know where we are; Ho-Ho-Kus Brook is over there."

I got older and started backpacking and orienteering and, y'know, puttering around in the woods.

Fast forward forty years and I work at REI. I'm trained in all the departments but Camping is my home. I've recently started teaching classes - next week I teach my first solo Map & Compass class and I'm developing an Outdoor Emergency Preparedness Basics class.

I now live in 34 acres adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have a solo backpack trip to Naked Ground and Hangover (pdf, sorry. Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness) scheduled for next week. I'll take my little Adventure Dog because she's my anamchara and everything is better when she's with me.

TL;DR: doin now what I did then, except now I have to figure out how to manage my car at the trailhead.
posted by workerant at 8:52 PM on July 6 [15 favorites]


When I was a kid I promised myself that when I grew up, I could stay up as late as I wanted reading, have an entire bag of potato chips all to myself, go to the movies any night of the week, and get my own dog, and I made all these life goals come true!!!

I’m still waiting on my Oscar, my marriage to Dr. Carter from ER, and my vintage convertible.
posted by sallybrown at 9:08 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


Yeah, reading. Especially Richard Scarry books, which was the topic of an FPP recently. I would spend, hours, HOURS I tell you, studying the ship in "What Do People Do All Day?" or the rabbit family's house in "Best Word Book Ever." HOURS, immersing myself in another world. I miss that so much.
posted by Melismata at 9:24 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


When I was a wee babby neanderthal of about 3/4 or so, I would play among the cornstalks in the backyard. There were rows and rows of them, and I'd hide from imaginary beings and play in imaginary forests, all around tall stalks while my parents weeded and watered. I now have little baby corn plants of my own this year, the first since I put in some around 8 years ago and got a bad crop due to cold weather and surgery taking too much time out of my gardening schedule. They're just starting to perk up and grow new leaves, and I'm confident that maybe, just maybe, I'll have some sweet corn in the fall.

Ah tomatoes. They're producing, but they're a mess. Some early mis-steps due to lack of time and the insane rain we had late in the season led to them being under-pruned which is causing more than a few problems now. I have really nice sized fruit growing on sucker stems and I had to put in like triple stakes to try and save the branches. I went a little nuts on the plant purchases last week. But in my defense the garlic chives were *not* growing from seed, and I'd wasted two seed packets so fuck it- I bought plants. Among other things. Some of my planting this week was from seedlings I've grown for myself, as well as the bought in plants. It would be nice if I could harvest any of the komatsuna, but the okra is almost a guaranteed bust- I just wanted to try it. I also trimmed back the thicket that was the front of the house and added a couple of new jade plants in more interesting colors then standard. But most importantly- I organized and re-potted my cuttings and seedlings for the meet-up on the 10th! It's not an exhaustive list, but I have a fair amount and I hope enough of you can take them off my hands.

Some fun things happened at work yesterday- but the best was a guy who bought a ton of plants from us came back and returned the pots to us. Like he just handed two huge lemon pots (15 gal at least) 5 or so 5 gallons pots and like 11 one gallon pots and was like- I'm supposed to bring these back right? We were like... no sir? But we can recycle them for you if you'd like? And then I realized- free pots! My manager was as baffled as I was by this guy (life is a rich tapestry) and totally ok-ed me bringing them home so now I have a ton of plastic pots that I brought home on the bus. That was fun. Today I brought home my newest experiment- a chayote plant! That will be a big post. I also brought home another batch of ladybugs, as the aphids are creeping back and I am not here for that. In fact, that's why I leave you now, I have to retrieve the ladybugs from the beer fridge and go out in the dark and sprinkle them onto my tomatoes.

Because fuck aphids that's why.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:31 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


It was randomly clicking around the internet (on the free text-only web browser thing provided by the library on a 2400 modem) and not much has changed for kids or for me.
posted by bleep at 10:15 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Bikes, man. Bikes were freedom to escape the ever-present authority figures of a child's life, they were the ability to travel more than a half-dozen houses away, the ability to go fast. When I was grade school-aged I lived on a two-block-long street that at one end went up a steep hill on the last quarter block to one of the main roads - which we kids were NOT allowed on; but we could slog our way up to the top of the street and then pedal/coast down as fast as we could, terrifying breathtaking speeds, with the wind in our faces and ears. The official contest was who could coast the farthest, but that first few exhilarating seconds was the real draw. It was absolutely worth the trudge up, and we'd do it over and over again. (As an adult I look at the street on Google Maps and that formidable hill is the barest slope. Feh, I say; it was an alarming gradient and I'm sticking by my story!)

In the other direction a well-worn path wound through a "forest" (again, or so it seemed) along the line dividing the properties on our street from the properties on the next street over, that went most of a block up to a church facing the other main road. On weekdays there was nobody at the church and we could ride with impunity around all the walkways then back down the path for a complete circuit.

In that same "forest" there were a couple of towering (or "towering"; I'm sensing a theme here) pine trees that if I climbed up to where the slender branches barely held my weight I had a fascinating view over all the neighboring roofs. I liked to sway back and forth near the top, singing "Figaro, figaro" at the top of my lungs - don't ask; I think it had something to do with a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The icing on the figurative cake of that act was that my younger sister would see me and start running to the house to have everyone come look at her big brother up in the tree...but while she did I'd scramble down so I was sitting at the bottom, blithe and innocent and denying everthing when everyone came out. It INFURIATED her. At the time it seemed hilarious; since then I've abjectly apologized to her for being such a jerk.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:19 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


Reading from the grown-up section of the library, way above my reading level, often books I only understand partially. I still do that.
posted by The Toad at 10:21 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


I have always loved posting things to MetaFilter -- here I am, right after my first favorite from Jessamyn.

Shooting. My god, did I ever love to shoot. Still do, but at 7 it was really A Big Deal. One of my brother-in-laws had a single shot .22 he bought at Sears, it shot .22 short, .22 long, .22 long rifle, and a crimped .22 that had bitty shot loaded into it, a shot gun that maybe you could use for June bugs or the like. Fred was/is an extremely thoughtful man, it said "Know your background for at least (Was it 1/4 mile? A mile?) before shooting this rifle." and Fred made sure. Plus we had 4x4s behind our targets, and a 4x4 would easy stop a .22 bullet. Also, Fred had a bow and arrow set-up, a wooden bow, it had a small compass set into the oak of the bow, it had nowhere near the juice that fiberglass bows had but it had plenty enough juice for us. Great fun, and we used cheapo target arrows that maybe would not be straight though you wouldn't know until you set them free and they'd veer this way or that way, either not straight enough or poorly balanced or both. If I recall correctly he ended up giving me that bow but I don't have it any longer -- don't tell him.

I still thank my brother-in-law for the time, attention, care that he gave me. Love, is what it was. Love is a verb, it's an action, it's something you do. And Fred gave me plenty.

Related: BB guns. BB guns were the best. You didn't need to be with Fred, these things weren't going all that far but they went far enough and had enough zing for us kids. My first one was a Crosman, single pump, pretty sure it was compressed air and not a compressed spring. Wooden stock and forearm, not walnut but still, wood. My second BB gun was the BB gun most any kid would pray for, a Crosman Model 760 pump gun, compressed air, and you could pump it more than once. The manual clearly stated "Maximum amount of pumps was 25 times." -- I found that you could get it to 32 pumps -- each pump harder than the last as you compressed that air -- and that thing was a screamer. Whoa! At 32 pumps the trigger was harder to pull, considerably harder. Shooting records was great, shooting bottles also great fun. That BB gun also shot .177 gauge lead pellets, and even at 15 pumps they'd flatten quite satisfactorily against a concrete or block wall; at 32 pumps the pellets all but disintegrated against those walls, an almost flat raised spot of lead, maybe a quarter inch around. You could also shoot wooden kitchen matches out of it, and against a concrete wall they popped pretty loud, like a cap gun maybe, and they'd stick to the concrete sometimes, not every time but sometimes, stick to the wall burning. Great fun. Also: those little plastic army men. My father and I built a pretty fair little mountainous area by putting whatever under a thick piece of some sort of brownish-tan padding, so it had ridges you could hide the army men behind then, maybe just their head sticking out, or head and shoulders, etc and etc. This was in our basement, we shot all the time in our basement, BBs flying all over the place. Total foolishness, that part was, could have put an eye out any day. But it sure was fun. Last: you could also shoot these .177 darts out of that BB gun, stick in any wood -- fun!
Nope, that wasn't last, but this will be, I promise: I had to take out and burn the garbage, out back, behind the garage, and I'd sneak a can of my sisters hair spray out, and pile garbage all around it so as to get it good and hot, light the garbage on all sides, then once it was really hot I shot it with that Crosman 760, pumped at least 25 times. "Whoosh!" a big flare of fire, the can turning inside out and twirling in the air, flinging burning garbage around etc. Fun!

Also, you can take a can of hairspray and shoot it over a match and you've got a pretty fun little flame-thrower -- what kid wouldn't like that? I sure liked it. Still do, though I'd certainly never tell anyone about how childish I am, and A Bad Person probably.

Firecrackers. But oh man, was it rare to have any. And bottle rockets -- hurray! But, again, really rare. Having even one string of 100 Black Cat firecrackers would have been to me a proof of the existence of a loving, caring god. I'd have traded that bible I got in fourth grade any day of the week. No question. "I don't know, Mom. I must have lost it. Could easy have lost it, the way I always carry it with me to read and pray and stuff, and witness to others. Dang it!"

Snow forts. Playing cowboys. One picture, a thousand words.

Horses. My oldest brother "loved" horses (He still does; he's been buying, selling, trading, showing Belgians for over 40 years now; here are his twins out with a team a few years back.) and he made sure my sisters and I got plenty of experience with them also. He brought over a Shetland pony one chill morning, got me up on it (Maybe 1962? 1963?) A few years later, my fathers business tanked, we lost our house and had to move to a rental house a few towns over, a real step down (the house was absolutely no castle) but not really a step-down for me -- that house was on 5 acres, and tons more acreage all around us, a spring-fed pond I could walk to in four minutes, it was a haven for a kid with a bb gun and a bow and arrow(s) and etc and etc. We were really in the country, though our mailing address was in a suburban Chicago town; we had pheasants, and woodchucks, and skunks, and raccoons, birds of every description, on and on and on.

And then my brother *really* did us right -- he bought us an albino-eyed pinto gelding, named Freckles. Paid $125 for him. We kept him in what had been a chicken coop at one time, built him a stall in that coop. It was just my life at the time -- I know now what a gift my brother gave me, gave my sisters also. Here is a sister up on Freckles, here I am tucked into him some. He was a bit spiny -- hard to ride bareback, or even with a blanket, and all he'd have to do is unexpectedly put on the brakes even a little bit and ZAM !! my crotch waas up on that hump at the base of his neck and OUCH OUCH OUCH !! OH OH OH !! OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD !! (That changed in not too many years to "OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK !!") Freckles was tall -- 16 hands -- and he was a good looking horse, regardless he was a bit spiny. Those eyes, those albino eyes, light blue but deep as hell -- he was something. He was willful, not terrible bad but some, but that is just life -- had he not had any fire he'd not have run like he did when you kicked hell out of him and yelled "Come on !! Let's do it!!" and shake the reins like you do and lean over him some, both of us now totally into it. God. Goddamn, it was great.. He could fly! And he loved to do so, sometimes, not always but sometimes, and especially when we'd been out a while and were headed back in -- You're gonna fly! Flat out FLY! God, it's just so much fun. Once while in the midst of that race back to the house we jumped a rabbit, Freckles spooked, stomped on the brakes, I flew directly over him and landed on my back just in time to see that while *I* wasn't still hauling ass back in for some cool water, *Freckles* damn sure was, and he ran right over me, hooves here hooves there, all a blur. No time even to get scared, which probably was A Good Thing. I've been thrown any number of times, it's just part of the show, I do think that where I flew over him and then he flew over me was the most interesting. I see people wearing helmets any more and I cannot help but laugh at them -- what a bunch of candy-asses! Anyways. Horses, for sure.
EDIT: Hope I have time to get this in, it's fun. I'd get to running Freckles hard, and maybe 20 minutes in I knew what would happen if we stopped right then. And the junior high I went to was really closeby. So We'd run some and then go over and get by the overhang over the front doors and I'd stop and Freckles would take a big dump and all of my friends knew it was me and it was fun!

Anyone who's read some of what I've written here on this site about my family, the violence in it, the lunacy -- they really, really were doing the best that they could. It damn sure wasn't enough, and all of us kids got warped, we all got hurt. Damaged in shipping. But there was love in that family, and a lot of it. A lot of what was *called* love wasn't love, but was instead gravity -- I put that together when reading about how huge massed things (stars, planets) warp space time around them, and anything that comes close can easy get sucked in, sucked in and held tight, too. So that helped me to understand our family dynamic. But. It wasn't all bad. And even some of the gravity, even some of that was good -- we were held in, we were held close, and being held in and held close, that's warm. We were family. We were blood. I love these people. I know these people. They know me. Inside out. Blood. Anyways. I wrote that because I'm going to show you a day when my father and I look to be real happy to be together. (I'm on the right.)

Reading. I have always loved to read. My father told me one day "Read. Read, and the world is yours. It is so important. Read." When I told him how grateful I was for that, years later, he didn't remember ever saying it, in fact said that he didn't say it. I would have sworn that he did, I'm almost positive he did. But it doesn't matter I don't think, I needed for him to say it, maybe I just hallucinated it. No telling. In any case, I loved to read. And I still do.

And it has opened the world for me. My oldest sister, Judith, who has my entire life championed my lame ass, who has loved hell out of me, at just the right time in my youth (4th grade I'm thinking) she was working at some big book distributorship, and every month or two I'd get two or three Hardy Boys books. Of course that's bullshit but it wasn't then, it was A Huge Deal, especially once I really began to get a lot of them. They were a wealth. They were important. And of course Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain -- any US kid was going to read that then. A year or two or three later I read Huckleberry Finn, and I loved that book. I loved that book and I love that book still. I am certain that I have read it at least 100 times. The words Clemons put into Hucks mouth, and into Jim's mouth, the dialects, the descriptions -- it's the best. It is the best.

Here is Huck, describing a storm: Pretty soon it darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spiderwebby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale underside of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow along and set the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest – FST! it was as bright as glory, and you’d have a little glimpse of treetops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you’d hear the thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels down stairs – where it’s long stairs and they bounce a good deal, you know.

Isn't that just the best? And not only the dialect, which is a scream, but also what a perfect description it is. I've seen that storm. So have you

And then, I got *really* lucky, and somehow got a copy of Twains "Letters From The Earth" placed into my hands. Now, I wasn't a child then, I was in high school, so I'm not going to go deep on this -- I'll just say that it saved my life.

Books can do that.

Once reading almost killed me -- my mother would all the time shut my light off, and if she saw it back on she'd sure let me know about it, and not by singing to me. I got an idea! (Oh, no!) Here's one of these little lights that you can plug into the wall, well, heck, I'll plug it into this extension cord and hold the end in my mouth, twixt my teeth. You know what happened, right? ZAP !!! I'd gotten so engrossed in the reading that I had that light deeper into my mouth than was prudent, and I ended up with these two parallel burns on the inside of my upper lip, from where drool had run into the extension cord.

This is a fairly open question -- when does childhood cut off? Does sex fit in this?

Because sex, that sure was important. But I've always been clumsy, I've always been uncertain, I was always nervous, I was always unsure if I was doing it right, and I was always alone, too, so no one to ask for clues. Dang...

That rent house we moved into in Lombard, it had a tree line that ran down next to where the farmers plowed, mostly maples, pretty thick cover. There was at that time a small airport, on the corner of Finley Road and Roosevelt Road, little single-engine prop jobs. And these guys were working on getting in their flying time, and 'round and 'round they'd go, like a practice landing but they didn't even touch down bur instead lifted back up, 'round another time. Once myself and a friend were in that tree line, and I had that wooden bow, and those planes flew low over that tree line, and I got an inspiration, turned up, cranked that arrow back and let fly THWANG off it went and stuck in the wing of that plane. And there went my arrow! flying on it's way, to go 'round and 'round. I am absolutely grateful as hell that I didn't shoot it into the butt of one of the people in that plane. Even as it was, my friend and I hauled ass home, I put my bow up, we pretended we were Citizens, maybe reading my bible or something.

Anyways. Put a keyboard in my hands and I am a hazard. And I've another thing to write yet, and I keep on thinking that this browser is going to crash and lose this long-winded load of blather, which, while it maybe would be a blessing for you, it'd sure hurt my feelings. So I'd best just put this thing up -- here goes...
posted by dancestoblue at 11:04 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


A lot of fun things but one memory sticks out for me and that is how me, my little brother and a group of like-aged kids in the building - which didn't have a swimming pool - would get over to the neighboring building which *did* have a swimming pool. We thought to ourselves "Well, the residents or the doormen aren't just going to let us in so we are going to have to sneak in somehow". So we devised a plan and this is how this ridiculously ill-advised and dangerous criminal trespass occurred almost every day for, at least, 4-5 summers. So we were kids between 8-10 of varying height and needed to find a way *over* a 2.5 meter wall that also had 1.5 meter chain-link fencing on top of it. The only other way was getting through at least two locked doors and that was deemed too complicated and involving other adults who could not be trusted to be cooperative. We stood back and took a good look at what was between us and the top of the chain link that was on top of this wall and we saw that our "activity room" was right up to the wall. OK! that we could work with!

Climb up to the window sill next to the activity room door, from the window sill then grab the top of the doorframe and slide your feet along the door pushbar towards the dividing wall between the buildings. Once at the end of the pushbar twist and jump and grab the bottom of the chain link fence and *heeeeaaaave* yourself up scrabbling with your feet for purchase until you could stand at the top of the wall and hold on to the chain link fence. Begin to climb the fence and stand on the roof of the activity center and look over to the sparkling cool water in the forbidden pool. Now, all that was left to do was to climb over the remaining half meter of chain link, reach over and grab the conveniently placed lamppost pole and sliiiiide down poolside.

Getting out was easy because you only needed a key to get in :)

good times.
posted by alchemist at 11:30 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


"Exploring".

Heading down the hill, past the mist weed, and resiny, brusque lantana; through the fence and into the Browns' paddocks, wending my way slowly down the hills like rice terraces, flattened by generations of cattle, through the winding paths.

Me, a stick (now it's a sword, now it's a magic staff), and the dog. Stumbling across a trickling stream and pausing to grab a drink. Finding the mouldering bones of a cow ("that's where the Murray Grey went"), pushing into a glade with an errant fruit tree like a bush lemon or wild passionfruit and feasting. Discovering some decrepit fence posts or half dissolved cement bricks; the relics of farmers from generations past.

And then into the rainforest. Slinking past the lawyer cane, wiggling into the hollow of a stranger fig and seeing an owl staring down at me. Exchanging stares with a brown snake, its silent, unblinking regard a reminder that despite their deadliness, they do not bite unless provoked.

Those hours by myself in the rainforest and countryside shaped me indelibly. I can never go back there, it was a moment in time as much as geography - which describes so much of childhood, doesn't it?
posted by smoke at 12:31 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


I grew up in Phoenix, so apart from riding my scooter up and down our street and going to the park around the corner to climb up the palo verde tree and read books in it, most of my childhood activities were spent inside or in my backyard. Wandering around the desert outside my would have been pretty dangerous- we already had scorpions and rattlesnakes behind our backyard wall that I'd encountered so it wasn't even tempting.

My sister and I would play with our Barbies for hours upon end and build them houses out of anything we could get our hands on- Lincoln logs, book, dominoes, etc. Then we would come up with backstories for them and their families and film it on our parents' video camera. If we weren't doing that, we were swimming in the pool in our backyard. One of the few good things about growing up in Phoenix was that everyone had a pool.

I did a lot of community theater starting when I was 8 or 9, all the way till high school. I was obsessed with musicals and when I went to a performing arts middle school all my friends were too, so we would trade soundtracks and memorize them for future audition pieces.

Now that I'm living in the Pacific Northwest, I feel like I'm doing all the things I wish I could have done outdoors as a kid. I spend hours in the woods with my dog, looking for berries and mushrooms and wildlife. I go fruit picking and make stuff with fruit that's never seen a grocery store. I can go to the beach whenever I want and hunt for agates and I have a rock tumbler to polish them with. And I bake cakes and cookies and pies for a living. I think my ten year old self would be disappointed that I'm not a famous singer/actress, though, but I'm okay with that part!
posted by mollywas at 1:15 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


I played with my Kelly's Car wash. Hours on end. And battling tops. If the weather was nice we'd ride our bikes Stingray, to Roosevelt Field or even Jones Beach. I also played a lot of stickball with my brothers. I was pretty much on my own as long as I was home by 6pm for dinner. I was taking the LIRR into the city at 13 or so. Mid to late 70s in the village as a teenager were some good times. I grew up fast.
posted by AugustWest at 4:07 AM on July 7


Baseball. I could play baseball 8 hours a day, and pretty much did in the summer. And by "play" I mean totally kid organized pick up games. I played Little League, but that was a relatively minor percentage of my baseball time.

Around age 13 I realized all those hours of playing baseball had barely got me to average, and that I was never going to be a professional baseball player.

In theory kids could still do that today, but I can't remember the last time I saw kids playing baseball in the street, backyard, etc. It seems like a game reserved 100% for formal, adult supervised times now.

That makes me sad.
posted by COD at 6:08 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


*Reading. So much reading.
*Riding bikes everywhere (no helmets).
*Tree climbing. We had an apple tree in the backyard and I rigged up a bucket on a pulley so I could haul up a book and a snack with me.
*Raising money one summer to save wombats from becoming extinct, sending the money to the zoo, and getting a thank you letter back.
*Writing and distributing a neighborhood newspaper during a different summer —and getting written up in the actual town newspaper!
*Tennis in the street in front of our house(no net!).
*Wiffle ball in the backyard.
*Did I mention all the reading?
posted by bookmammal at 6:32 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Eating dirt.

My teen kid made me this beautiful handmade book for Father's Day and it's filled with his childhood memories, and my favorite page is the one where he talks about eating directly out of the garden. How he'd sit under a tree and read and if he was hungry he'd just walk over to the garden, pick five or six tomatoes, and then sit back under the tree and eat them while he finished his book. Tomato juice dribbling down his shirt, occasionally dropping a seed on the current page.

Yeah, I was a book nerd too, but I also did it outside. And the outdoors themselves provided plenty for a curious kid to learn about. And drama. That Nature Red in Tooth and Claw stuff provides an intense learning experience. And if you want to get Dickensian, try excavating an ant colony. Move the queen. My kids were lucky in that they moved from the country around the time they lost their interest in playing in the dirt. The city is better suited for their more social interests. Maybe they've lost their taste for the dirt. I'm not sure I ever did and I think that's why I miss gardening so much.

Even though I was raised in a suburban development, our house was directly behind the original farm that would eventually get subdivided, but when we first moved there, the original husband and wife still lived in the original farmhouse and they still kept animals in the barn and on their land which extended past our backyard and on for five acres. It was an oddly rural childhood in spite of my suburban surroundings.

When I went to college I also chose a rural location, and when I first really settled down I moved to the outskirts of a town of about 50. I liked the secluded life, the solitude, study. So many questions. Which plants were spring plants, summer plants, fall plants? What’s the difference between a wet year and a dry year? Where are these bugs going? Why are those fighting? What happens to everything in the winter? Why these rocks? Why do ferns grow after damage in the woods? What here is edible?

And that’s where my kids were born and where they were kids. And you’re damned right I passed that on. I told them what I learned. That’s a spring plant, you only see those on wet years. That’s a mantid egg sac. Leave it there, it will survive the winter just fine, and in the spring when they hatch, the first thing they’ll hunt is each other. These rocks started up there, that hill on our left, but as that mountain erodes, the stones that break off roll down here to the valley. Ferns don’t grow everywhere there’s damage, but they do like a nice fire every now and then. That’s a wild strawberry. Doesn't it taste like strawberries you’re used to but smaller, maybe more intense? They like to hide under things.

Now that they’re teens they don’t traipse around like they used to. There are places in this city, even in our backyard where they could still see a good ant fight, but they aren’t interested. But they’ve both told me that they loved our walks in the woods and in the fields when they were little. Knowing the cows next door and the horses down the road. And I’m so glad I was able to pass that on. Of course, the information I passed on was specific to that place, and we don’t live there anymore, but with any luck, I also passed on not just local information, but a way of looking at the natural world. That’s my hope anyway.

So yeah, I don't think people eat as much dirt as they used to. I'm glad my kids ate dirt. More people should.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:38 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


Reading. So much reading. And time on the computer. A little programming (should have stuck with that!) and a little gaming, though I'm not sure it was called that then. I think it was just called "playing a computer game."

But the thing I remember most — though it was hardly a favourite — was the world-distorting, crushing boredom of long, hot summer days when friends were mostly away and I was in a desert suburb where it was too hot to go outside and anyway there wasn't anything walkable around. It felt like being marooned on an island and, yes, I did read, as I said, but there was also often obligatory, school-mandated summer reading and that was when I first realized that nothing takes the fun out of something like someone compelling you to do it. Plus, a lot of the books were dumb.

Oh, yeah. I listened to a lot of talk radio to pass the time. Again, "favourite" I don't know. But there was a lot of it. Rush! Dr. Laura! I wrote to Dr. Laura and got a very sweet personal reply. All of this seems like anathema to me now, but I want to say it was before either of them figured out that being utterly toxic was good for business. Or maybe they knew, but I hadn't clued in.
posted by veggieboy at 6:58 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Playing pretend! Oh wow, so many pretend games. My favorites were "Past Present Future" where people from different times all died and met in some kind of limbo and then had to understand each others' deaths in order to escape, "apartment building" where we all congregated in what was supposed to be the building lobby (the couch) or the bus stop (still the couch) with our dolls and complained about our life troubles as mothers raising these difficult children (the dolls), Peter Pan having adventures in Neverland (I was obsessed with the movie Hook), on and on and on. I like to write now, so not that different.

Also, I grew up on the same block as a park with a big creek, and SO many hours were spent exploring that creek! We just wondered all around, wading through the water, throwing rocks, all the usual. The sewer system is kind of integrated into the waterway, so there are also these enormous tunnels to explore and this spooky swamp area. Lots of people live in and use the park, so we'd constantly stumble on guerilla vegetable gardeners and homeless people just trying to live their lives, it was not that bucolic. But I loved it. I live fairly near the creek again nowadays, but honestly, my creep-o-meter has gotten too sensitive to enjoy doing the kind of wondering that I did there as a kid. There have been some heartbreaking shootings and some corpses found, which as a kid, you don't really take that seriously, but as an adult...and whereas as a kid I would see people hanging around and not really think anything of it, now I see that they're high/etc and it creeps me out. It actually is a very nice park, but you kind of need a kid's innocence and blitheness to really enjoy it as "wilderness."

My favorite memory from childhood is this one time when there was a cloudburst. It gets HOT here in the summer and we couldn't go to a pool (there was one up the street, but it was too dangerous, and besides, we never had admission money), so we were basically just hot sweaty messes the whole time. But one day there was this enormous cloudburst, and because there was no thunder or lightening, we all got to run around like lunatics in the street while it was happening. I mean, it was crazy, I was literally rolling around in the gutter water?! Very fun. Like a little kid Bacchanalia.

Getting to be more adolescent age, like eleven or twelve, my friends and I would just wonder the neighborhood for hours and hours and talk. We had these sorts of foam sandals and we'd wear the foam to millimeters from walking. And we'd hang out on the front steps doing our nails and putting rubbing alcohol on our bug bites. Those friends had a little sister and a very tiny baby sister, and next door was a very adorable toddler, and we did a lot of quasi-babysitting, where in retrospect I guess we were watching them, but uh. We mostly just played with them or sat around being teenage(ish) girls in their proximity. The radio was ALWAYS on, music countdown shows were ALWAYS on, just constant, constant music and singing and flipping through whatever Delias catalogues we could get our hands on. We were also on the same block as a 7-Eleven, so whenever we could get our hands on some money, we would go up there and get Slurpees (smallest size, but every flavor). My personal favorite were the hot dogs on the roll-y machine. They were a dollar a piece, and my favorite food aside from Chef Boyardee cheese ravioli. And my parents did feed me well, I just had terrible taste.

One year the city put all these random strips of tar on the road (I still don't know why), and when it got to be summertime, the strips would start to soften, soften, soften. The asphalt would start getting really hot, too. There came a point when if you didn't put shoes on, you had to run so fast across the street! And once the tar started softening, the young guys would all start sitting outside in their cars all day with their stereos blasting, cleaning their cars (ostensibly) but for hours and hours. There was also this one house like two doors down where one woman sat inside singing Filipino karaoke every day all day. These were basically rowhouses, very close together, and when it got warm, everyone would just have their screen doors closed but the actual doors open, and you could hear her (tone deaf) karaoke from everywhere. When the men started washing their cars every day and there was music everywhere you went outside, that was the sign of summertime starting on the street.

Oh man, and all those childhood mythology things. The (terrifying) Bee Bush, etc etc etc. Man, childhood was fun. I definitely had a good one, hope that I can give any kids I have the same.
posted by rue72 at 7:24 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Bobbing and weaving between college students on my bike. I grew up a few blocks from a small liberal arts college and spent a huge amount of time wandering around that campus. I haunted the greenhouse, snuck into dorms through bathroom windows and cadged snacks from the college kids, wandered the stacks of the library looking at old books, saved up change for the vending machine, waded in the nearby river, skated on the pond when the ice was thick enough, played volleyball with the school for social work until the college decided that a volleyball court didn't look "college" enough for its future donors.

Biking out to a more rural town, stop at the cider mill, hanging out by "the little creek" where we'd wade, dam it up, wander up the hill, hang out in the old sand quarry, bike back downhill blissfully.

Reading at home in my bed.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:25 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I liked legos, blocks, climbing trees, making art, and as soon as I could read, reading. A friend of mine from grade school and I would run around and explore the neighborhood, generally starting from her place because my parents were overprotective and there was more open area around her folks’ place. She stopped talking to me when I came out.

Looking back on my childhood is weird because I always feel kind of ghostly in it both because I grew up in an alcoholic family and because I’m queer and had no words for that other than no I am not interested in boys, which zero adults believed me about even after I came out. A lot of my childhood was about getting some kind of mental escape.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:12 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Oh this reminds me. We lived next to a highrise, and there was this one kid in the highrise who was a major weirdo, even by our pretty-much-all-weirdos standard. He would go to his window on the tenth floor or so and throw pennies out of it, sometimes rolls of pennies. The boys would go to the parking lot and try to catch the money, and it turned out that these pennies were sometimes the old kind that said "one cent" on the back, which in our little kid minds was super exotic and valuable. But still, the girls and I would be assholes and yell up at him to stop throwing away his grocery money, and whether his sister would be mad at him (he lived with her, not his parents), stuff like that. I thought the boys were crazy, because can't you die from getting hit by a roll of coins thrown from that high up? And even if you can't, who knows if he was only throwing the pennies to try to lure them into range and then throw something worse at them! Anyhow, that kid took a liking to me because we were the only white kids in the neighborhood and so of course we're supposed to be a couple, right? Ugh. I was like ten years old, he was supposedly fourteen but had the kind of old man face that it was hard to tell (rumor was that he was seventeen). Anyway, he did have his sights on me, so he would come by my house and want me to do random stuff -- like one time, he wanted me to come smell something in a spray canister that he'd gotten for his sister. There were all kinds of rumors about his sister, too, so in retrospect I find that even creepier than I did at the time. But joke was on him because I had no sense of smell, apparently from this sinus infection that I got as a small child and that was never treated. So I was like, I really would smell it for you if I could, but I can't. He got so pissed off, jeez. He didn't believe me at all. Which is fair enough because who doesn't have a sense of smell? But yeah, when I saw his face after I told him that, it was definitely time for me to get out of there!

There was a lot of life in that particular neighborhood, people just everywhere doing stuff, and lots of times what they were doing was kind of depressing or strange or threatening, but I still miss all the liveliness. People also let their pets wonder back then, so there was a neighborhood dog that lived in the park, and a bunch of other dogs and cats that were always out and about, playing in the street along with all us kids (and that drove the dogs that had to stay in their yards crazy. This was also in the era when dog fighting was a big (horrible) thing, so a lot of those dogs in the yards were legitimately scary. But some of them were just little bichon frises or whatever and, wow, would the cats taunt them, strolling and laying right on the other side of the chain-link!).

Where my parents live now is very quiet, and when they first moved there (when I was a teenager), I thought it was very spooky. Even now, I still have so many nightmares when I stay there, of people breaking into the house or otherwise prowling around. One night it was so bad I could only sleep holding my cell phone. It's just a normal suburban house on a quarter acre lot or whatever, but it feels very isolated to me. When I was a kid, you could always hear things going on around you. There was a certain dog two doors down (Cookie) that always barked her head off when her owner came home from work at around 2am, there were train whistles, there were sirens, there were often just people out and about in general. I still feel much more comfortable in busier neighborhoods, and now that I live in a highrise myself, I keep the doors and windows open whenever it's even sort of warm enough, so that I can hear people (and birds and cars and everything).

My parents must attract trouble, though, because even in all that serenity, weird things happen. A couple months ago, some guy came running up INTO their house saying someone was chasing him, and then ran through the whole house getting more and more paranoid. He asked to call the police, so they let him, but the police didn't come. Then THEY called the police and asked them to show up, because they were getting scared (the guy's paranoia was turning aggressive) and the police STILL didn't show up. Finally, the guy ran out of their house into the street again and started bothering more people, and some neighbors all called the police, and the police FINALLY arrived. I mean, I'm not one to call the cops but at the same time, I like to think that if my elderly parents need them, they won't just be ignored, jeez. Or another time, I was over there sitting around messing with the computer or whatever, and I hear a ton of sirens and a big screech and crash, and rush to the window. This car full of guys had apparently been in a police chase, tried to round the corner, and crashed into the across-the-street-neighbor's yard. The guys ran out of the car, but by then, the police had gotten there. The cops pulled their guns and did that bullhorn thing, telling all the men to stop and let themselves get arrested. One guy was slow getting out of the car and did have to kneel down right there like two feet away from the cops, but at least one other managed to run, and there was a foot chase. And meanwhile, my dad is wondering outside smoking a pipe or some weirdness, trying to get a look! I was like, "Papa! Get back inside!" I mean, what the hell? Once people are pulling guns, who goes outside trying to see what's happening? hahahaha

Man, it's nice to talk about those days, though. My life and identity now is so entirely different from when I was a kid, people clearly feel uncomfortable and weirded out when I bring stuff up from back then. Often when I do wind up mentioning something I think will be relatable, people are STILL weirded out. So I try not to bring it up with anybody or at least not very frankly, which ends up making my life before the age of fifteen or so seem like a dirty secret that I've got to keep. Odd feeling. Anybody else in that boat? So anyway, sorry for hogging the thread this morning!
posted by rue72 at 9:12 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Sitting around fires down by the stream in the woods behind our house, building tree houses and sleeping in them summer and winter, riding bikes for miles to one another's homes, waiting for the neighbors to get off the party line. When I was alone, lots of reading, listening to records and radio, drinking tea, talking to cats, playing guitar, building model planes and rockets, watching fuzzy broadcast television. We didn't lock our doors and no one ever walked in unexpectedly. Something between Stand By Me and Stranger Things but without the drama and Upside Down.
posted by pracowity at 10:43 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


This was an unexpectedly difficult question to answer, because my favorite thing to do then that I can't do now is to keep myself company. Sure, I do that now; I do it all the time. But then, I could disappear into vast worlds of imagination just by pacing through the backyard or playing Simon's Quest for the thousandth time. I'm not saying that everything I found there was gold, but I took joy in it. If I could do now what I could do then, I would never stop writing, never.

I had no siblings, and my parents kept a close eye on me (by '80s standards) because our neighborhood could be dangerous. I had to make my own fun, and since I wasn't a tinkerer, that meant I had to be my own fun.

Afraid I'm not gonna have a great evening. I had an OKC date scheduled, and I looked to the conversation to confirm the time -- turns out the profile's gone, and so is the conversation. He's either deleted it or unliked me. I haven't the faintest ... But I have the time and place, so ... I guess I turn up? Do I want to meet someone who's been this cavalier? Probably not, but I really wanted to put on a dress and be a real grownup type lady tonight for once. So I guess I'm just going to sit out there and read my Kindle and have a tall, frosty Impostor Syndrome IPA.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:33 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I had a chemistry set that was an amalgam of several chemistry sets, old and new. I would mix chemicals, burn chemicals and even use the alcohol lamp to melt and form glass tubes. I'm going to bet that many of those chemicals are illegal now.

Luckily I didn't poison myself or others. And I am perfectly freb ngun.
posted by Splunge at 2:02 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I don't really have an answer to the question, but as I type, I am roasting my 4th batch of tomatoes and garlic from the garden for marinara. I've made 3 quarts so far and it's fucking delicious. I also just made my 7th and 8th jars of half-sour pickles that Mr. Sophie is eating like candy. This morning I also made some mint simple syrup. I had lemonade with mint simple syrup a couple of weeks ago and it was a revelation. I can't wait. Tomorrow morning before it gets too hot, I'm going to make Meyer lemon and vanilla bean jelly. It's a hit around these parts and every one of my neighbors is growing huge lemons that they are more than happy to drop bags of on my porch in exchange for a jar.

I really need to learn how to keep my tomatoes healthier. I have a feeling this is going to involve soil testing and I'm not sure if I'm ready for that. I have a LOT of yellow leaves. I have a ton of chicken poop in the beds that have been there since early winter and they were fully composted before that. I'm feeding them also. I wish I could have a tomato doctor come out and diagnose the issue...
posted by Sophie1 at 2:09 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Sometimes if you plant tomatoes in the same spot year after year mild but persist soil diseases can build up in the soil so you want to treat the soil with beneficial microbes if you can’t rotate beds. I think one is called actinomycete? But I’m not sure. I’ll have to do that for next year’s tomatoes for sure.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:18 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I rambled all over, on foot through the fields behind the house and by bike all over the county fairgrounds near the house. It was thrilling, mildly transgressive, but also I knew I wouldn't get in (much) trouble if I got caught.

If I were a kid today, I would be hip deep in fanfic. I was writing it back then but not sharing it with anyone. I'm a little bit glad that we did not have the internet, because a) I think I would have neglected my schoolwork and flunked out if I'd had any sort of encouragement to write more and b) all my embarrassing juvenilia would be archived somewhere.
posted by BrashTech at 4:33 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Oh I was definitely feral!
We lived on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere- from age 5 on I spent all my time in the woods- I would be so far away mom calling me for dinner was just a distant faint sound. Climbing trees, catching stuff in the stream, eating berries & wild apples, building forts, climbing the rafters in creaking old barns, reading, making things, learning bird calls and critter tracks and trails, wonderful hours and hours exploring & observing & studying nature & stuff. We briefly had a fat little pony, then upgraded to a lovely grumpy quarter horse & I would spend hours lounging & reading bareback on her, as she grazed the fields and swished her tail. Some hippies stayed a couple years on the farm behind us, with a bunch of giant dogs ( wolfhounds and borzois) that were allowed to run free, and an appaloosa stallion who wouldn't shut up about our mare, so then we were blessed with witnessing her give birth to the prettiest palomino kid-me could have dreamed up, who was from then on my pal on my adventures as we explored everything together. Such a wonderful thing, to have been so utterly carefree.

This is still basically my life, except now I have a pupper sidekick instead of a horse.
posted by cabin fever at 6:21 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


All I wanted to do was login to AOL and read random crap and chat with my friends. I have not changed at all - at least you don’t pay for internet by the hour anymore.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:13 PM on July 7


I still do most of the things I loved to do as a kid, as well as a lot of things I wanted to do and a whole lot of things I never thought I would want to do or thought I could do.

I've been fascinated with electronic music for as long as I can even remember what music is, and that's still a thing.

I also spent a lot of time just getting pretty deep in to nature and off the beaten path and then... basically just sitting and being quiet and listening and watching, and that's still one of my favorite things.

Some of the things I don't do is go surfing or spend a whole lot of time in the ocean or in water in general. For one it's cold enough around here to make me question reality and/or send me into shock, but there aren't really the kinds of waves I am used to that would be fun to surf and the nearest beaches with good surfing waves are... well, much too large, rocky and known for being some of the wildest and most challenging (and coldest!) surfing on the planet and I just don't miss it that much to want to be an icicle bouncing off of giant glacial errata covered in razor sharp barnacles.

I also don't bounce off of concrete or take as many risks in search of adrenaline as I used to. I will sometimes borrow a friend's skateboard and kick around a bit and I'm getting old enough that people obviously react with "Oh crap, they know how to skate. I was expecting them to instantly eat shit!" so that's fun, and I still know how to roll and take a bail. I think the last time I borrowed someone's board I was just trying to carve and do fakie pivots and caught and edge, but rolled over backwards in an easy somersault without a single bump on the wrists or noggin.

I would actually like to skateboard more. There's a great park and bowl in town, and if I had the protective gear and a decent vert board still I'd probably be riding it. It's fantastic exercise and if you grew up riding skateboards and surfboards the physics of just doing casual park riding is really easy and has a lot of good flow states.

And, well, I still probably take more risks on a bike than most. I am very comfortable riding dirt and various terrain even with skinny touring tires, and given a good line or track I can probably ride up things I would have difficulty climbing on foot.


This question is also timely, because one of the first things I learned to cook as a kid was pancakes. Earlier this week I had a pretty epic basket of berries, including the most thimbleberries I've ever personally seen in one place, almost two pints or so. They're incredibly fragile! I also gathered nearly a pint of wild strawberries, a cup or so of trailing blackberries and another cup of really choice salmonberries.

And this only took about 15 minutes on a really easy walk with some coffee. We aren't even really into full berry season yet and I'm just doing really lazy foraging along the edges of the bramble and driveway and stuff.


And baked them all in buttermilk pancakes. One berry type per pancake, with enough assorted berries left for a final mixed berry pancake. They were really good.

In other nature news I spent this morning for the time it took to drink, oh, two cups of coffee or about a whole half an hour or more with an absolutely mortified chipmunk secretly perched two feet overhead. It was clinging to the top of a bamboo pole I was using to prop up the rain tarp I have over my porch and sitting area.

The murderous furbeast of a cat must have chased it up there. I thought said cat was just happy to see me and not trying to tell me about the chipmunk right over my shoulder. I put the cat inside and was able to rescue the poor chipmunk, who was exhausted enough that it just clung to the bamboo pole after un-propped it and let the chipmunk down to the ground before bolting off into the ferns.

Also getting real good with the machete, and seem to be taking up 2-cycle engine power tool repair as a necessity. I'm trying to get some old tools running and I honestly have no idea what I'm doing but I seem to be figuring it out.
posted by loquacious at 7:15 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite memories was from being little enough to sit behind/under the Christmas tree that we placed in the corner, laying on my back and enveloped by the colored lights as I read books and waited for Christmas to eventually get there. It felt very magical, and it's the kind of thing that you (literally) grow out of being able to do and recapture.

I also loved, loved the first days of summer vacation when I was a youngster. The feeling of freedom was incomparable to anything I feel now, especially the anticipation as the last day of school for the clock ticked down. My sister and I would get up the very next morning and watch old westerns on our black and white TV while parents were at work.

I also used to love anticipating the airing of my favorite show, or getting up on Saturday to watch cartoons at a specified time. Things often still have an air date, but it's not quite the same thing as showing up for school the next day and talking about how JR was shot the night before (or so I heard, I wasn't allowed to watch that one).

My friend and I also used to go to the store and get a zillion cardboard boxes from their recycling, and then tape them up into huge connected structures, and then we would cut doors between interconnected boxes and create elaborate hallways so that you could crawl and hang out in a multi-room maze/mansion.

I think I miss things most that have lost their sense of scale because of physically growing larger, or losing a sense of freedom due to pressing responsibilities over time. If I could capture that feeling of adventure and lack of concern again, I'd bottle it up forever and never grow old.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:28 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


My favorite thing was spending a summer day in a lake, with a book to read during the in-between moments warming up on the dock. That is just what I did today, with my spouse and 2 boys. The teenager actually dropped his teenage caution and goofed around with the rest of us, we all got way too much sun despite frequent reapplications of sunscreen, the phones stayed up in the cabin, and it. Was. Heaven.
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 9:08 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I spent so much time outside alone. I really grieve that my kid (a city kid - in Seattle, but still a city kid) won’t have access to that. There was a huge field behind our house when I was little, bordered by forest and a delightful creek. My parents let my brother and me play out there alone for hours. I feel like it’s just lucky coincidence that we didn’t drown or get murdered. We’d feast on wild strawberries and catch polliwogs in our buckets and climb trees and chase bugs. Idyllic. Kids clearly can’t do that anymore, and that field is now a housing development, but it was formative. My brother and friends and I would also make up plays and put posters around the neighborhood inviting people to them.

When our family moved in fourth grade, I had a whole other forest with horses next door. I’d wander all around, way beyond my family’s property, and feed the horses wintergreen and ferns through the electric fence. There was a giant scotch pine tree in the backyard, and I’d climb it with a book and read up there. This was pre-internet, and I remember reading a lot of the Dark is Rising series in a tree, which made it feel more magical.

Later, as teenagers, my friends and I would walk or bike to the library and hole up there to do homework and gossip. Or go to the playground and have deep conversations while swinging, until dating took over our free time.

It’s weird raising a city kid when an urban childhood was so not my experience. She asked me if frogs were real last year and it was so jarring. But she knows other things I never did.
posted by centrifugal at 10:39 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I know, I am being a little cheeky, but when I was a kid I loved taking a handful of mushrooms or just a single hit of LSD before going to school. It made the day much more interesting! If I started peaking to heavily, I would just walk out into the woods behind the sports field to smoke a doob and chillax until the ride was more manageable.

At least in North America I imagine with the police duty officers and all the criminal justice implications and child safety regulations this would not work out as well for a teen today. Not to mention sourcing LSD.

I was so so lucky to be in the specific time and place I was in - it was the early 80s but our class was this tiny bubble of stoned out freaks who were still partying like it was 1975! Led Zeppelin my face is melting oh my gawd that is hilarious we are all unified love energy it is true i saw it
posted by Meatbomb at 1:22 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


"Exploring".

Today, one would call it "urban exploration" - or more simply trespassing.

Man, I went into so many abandoned places, I am surprised I lived to tell the tale.

Walking along rail spurs, crossing the Welland canal via walkways on the locks - or rail bridges. Gravel pits, construction sites, barns, dumps, wrecking yards, crumbling unused factories, vineyards (apologies farmers from whom I ate soooo many concord grapes), abandoned beekeeping shacks (where all the older high school kids would party at night - I am sure there were plenty of urban legends/horror tales of what supposedly went on there). Creeks, ponds - catching tadpoles, frogs & newts. Of course playgrounds, and public pools.

Later, this became hiking, camping, fishing and a tiny bit of hunting.

Then, I started a career in tech and have spent most of my time sitting on my butt since then. Ugh. :-(
posted by jkaczor at 9:43 AM on July 8


For a few years the gang of kids at my end of the block were us (me and my brother), the girl who lived in the rectory for the UCC church in town (next door to me), and the P's kids (across from the rectory). We would have epic tag games in the evenings, with the playing field covering all three of our yards; the front and back stoops of all our houses were safe spaces, and otherwise it was tag playing fields. The girl from the rectory was the best person to start off as "It" because she would climb trees and ambush you.

Sometimes the rectory girl, the P's daughter, and me would play with the rectory girl's Barbie collection, which was vast. And sometimes we would play "Office", in lieu of playing "House"; the three of us huddled in the Rectory Girl's bedroom pretending we were doing various paper-pushing tasks. (I have been getting increasingly more uneasy about that as time passes, given my current life path.)

Sometimes it was just the P's and me and my brother. The P's daughter and I played "house" at times, usually outside on one of the back decks, while our brothers would sneak around spying on us and then periodically leaping out to attack us. P's daughter and I simply incorporated it into our play - we weren't ever just playing "House", it was always "House In A Wartorn Country Where We Are At Risk Of Being Attacked Now And Then".

Or sometimes the four of us would play STAR WARS; the two boys would trade off who got to be Luke and who got to be Han. But the P's daughter always got to be Leia because "I have brown hair like Leia"; I was towheaded as a girl, and she argued that Leia wasn't blond. So I was always "Leia's Sister Who Wasn't In The Movie".

Sometimes our brothers would play "Dukes of Hazard", usually in the P's yard. But then once the P's son broke his arm trying to slide across the hood of the family car and then climb in the window, so our parents put a stop to that.

Every once in a blue moon "Mike" would come up to our end of the block for a pickup whiffleball game. Mike was in the same year as the P's daughter "L" and me, and our brothers, C and J, looked up to him, as he was an enormous sports buff. But he was also one of those people who when they have a temper tantrum it's usually about something ridiculously inconsequential and so it's just funny, like Donald Duck having a hissy fit. So we all dug it when Mike came to start a game, even though every single one of our games started with Mike making some variant of the following speech:
Okay, let's pick teams. I'll be captain of one team, and C and J, you can be co-captains of the other team, since let's face it, two of you equals one of me. Okay - I'll have first pick for teams, since I'm only one guy as captain and you guys are two. Hmm. ...Okay, L, let's face it, when it comes to sports, you're a double-zero. ....But - EC, you're a triple-zero. Okay, I'll take L, and you guys get EC.
It sounds insulting on paper, but I would find the whole thing hilarious, because he was taking the game so damn seriously, and it was only whiffleball between three ten-year-olds and two second-graders. And Mike was right, L and I sucked, and the two little boys also were too little to have much expertise, so we would be pitching balls over his head and throwing balls way off course and general chaos was reigning, and he would get so frustrated that we weren't the experts he wanted to be playing with and would snark about it the whole time and I always ended up laughing uproariously because Seriously, Mike, you didn't know this was what you were getting into?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on July 8


Oh - someone's babysitter taught us all to play both RISK and MONOPOLY as some general get-the-kids-out-of-my-hair move, and we all took to it like whoa - we didn't know anything about strategy as such, but we still loved playing (I often would try to take over the Congo solely because there had been a MUPPET SHOW sketch about the Congo and I liked singing the song they had). That was a common rainy-day thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on July 8


We lived in an old farmhouse in Maine when I was a kid. My Dad fixed it up, and it was great for all of us kids, exploring the barn and the fields and woods beyond.

My brother and I would regularly climb pine trees, which ticked off my poor Mother, as we'd come home covered in pine pitch, and she'd have to use PineSol to get it off our hands, never mind the laundry.

My brother and I would climb up the various levels in the barn:

1. Stepladder nailed to the wall to the hayloft. Level achieved.

2. Second stepladder nailed from the hayloft to a wooden platform above. Level achieved.

3. Third stepladder, in the open air, to a 3rd level platform above that. Level achieved.

4. Catwalk and ancient wooden ladder, which we had to walk across, balanced between beams. Level achieved.

5. Ancient wooden ladder, which led up to the cupola of the barn. Level achieved. We'd sit on old wooden boards in the cupola and take in the view.

6. My brother, "Wanna see my duck walk?" Proceeds to walk on the pitched roof of the barn and back, to show off.

Not sure my Mother knew about that stuff. But we were little climbers, for sure. I shudder to think of it now, but we used to spend hours dreaming about how we would convert that barn into apartments for all of us siblings, and live there forever. Mine was going to be all black and white, panda colors, and lots of faux fur, and very mod (this was the early 1970's). Each of us would get our own apartment, and we'd live together happily, forever.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:17 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Playing outside. In dirt. With sticks.

A stick could be a spear, a gun (heaven forbid!), a bow and arrow, a magic wand or staff.

Digging a hole in the back yard could fill an entire day. We'd find cool rocks, old ceramics and cheap jewelry. Big chunks of mica. Then the next day, at the instruction of an annoyed parent, we would fill the hole up.

The back yard was a universe. Behind the bushes was a space ship. The grass was a forest to our green army men. The mimosa tree was a friend. (We were devastated when my father cut it down)

We got dirty, filthy. It was wonderful.
posted by Splunge at 1:13 PM on July 9


Oh, and playing in the street until dark. The voices of parents yelling at kids to come home. We had to be forced to go indoors. Weird, huh?
posted by Splunge at 1:15 PM on July 9


We got dirty, filthy. It was wonderful.

Calvin concurs.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:40 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we had to be dragged inside, and that was before we discovered we were boys and girls!

Grew up in southern UK in the 70's, a military area plus an area with a lot of freeway and other large, mysterious civil works, lots of ways to have fun, and get into serious trouble too unless we were very aware. We used to love getting around late at night and investigating these places, along with plain ordinary places. Many kids came from military families, especially the harder and SF units so we all picked up ways to move quietly. We had a lot of fun. So I was 12 in 1976.

There generally wasn't the perception that there were bad people tho' (with the exception of bullies among our peers, and as it turns out the bullies carried on bullying and now all of them are long dead). That said we all carried the most wicked assortment of knives (and concealed air pistols), and we'd often accompany one another home.

It was (then) an area of woods, copses, abandoned farmland and buildings, all great for exploring. Winters weren't fun tho', dreary long cold-war winters, dark at 4.30. I was very into air guns and used to set up a target at ~80-100 metres with a candle to the side and spend the evening under a blanket pinging away at images of Russian soldiers.

We didn't get a lot of snow but the cold winters yeh - we got very good at lighting fires in the worst weather and would challenge each other to do it and get something that would burn quietly for days with very little smoke.

One time we built a huge shelter using a poly sheet draped over a huge old felled tree.

A lot of kids were from messed up homes with only one parent about so we had to entertain ourselves and we generally avoided being too troublesome, altho' I can recall some happy .. ahh I suppose it's called vandalism now. We also liked making things explode, altho' that was a freaky business, especially when a blast was too 'successful'.

One of my happiest memories was when about 9 of us found an ancient beech tree in an old sand quarry right here, it had a great vast sweeping branch that draped down intoi the pit and we sat all along it and swayed up and down for ages. Several years later my grandfather told me he'd worked that sandpit in WW1. Most of that scene was fields and copse in 1976
posted by unearthed at 2:29 AM on July 10


there's no reason kids today can't play badminton on rollerblades in the middle of the road, but I feel like they don't?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:14 PM on July 10


Going to the public library. It was new, and air-conditioned. Later, I would explore and even take refuge in the much bigger library from which I couldn't borrow yet, at the nearby University. Huge old building, NOT air-conditioned, and the three main floors that had big central reading rooms had very tall ceilings in order to accommodate Mezzanine levels, with balconies. (Like here, in 'Marian the Librarian' but without the spiral staircases.) A renovation tore all that out, unfortunately.
posted by Rash at 1:17 PM on July 10


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