Friday, May 14, 2010

My String Theory

What are the childhood memories our children will carry in to adulthood? Will it be the year they finally got that game system for Christmas that they had been longing for? That super awesome robotic "thing", that was all the rage and  everyone had to have and that could do Everything on it's own? The special doll and her accessories  that express your the kids great taste in creative play?  The really cool science stuff including the telescope that mom and dad they thought was so cool?  Parents often talk about how kids would rather play in a cardboard box than with fancy toys and I have found this to be true. I call it My String Theory. (not nearly as intriguing as the authentic string theory but in mom world pretty close)

  I was pretty strict about what the kids were exposed to when they were small.  I have to say that when they were little we kept TV to a minimum and we didn't have video games until Littlest was around 10.  I tried to be very careful about them being exposed to "mind rot". So of course they craved it like chocolate and in middle school became addicted to Anime and Manga which is a plot to drive me in to a straight jacket holding my hands over my ears and screaming, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder over and over again in terror.  Anyway..... We did have computer games like Zoo Tycoon. Which I thought would be very educational until I heard hysterical laughter and came to find my darlings feeding the zoo guest's to the lions.  When it came to TV and  movies I had very set ideas about quality content. The really good Disney stuff, Free Willy and classics like Little Women and The Little Princess were favorites and when they got a little older I did allow them to watch Lord of the Rings, I figured if they were capable of reading it they were mature enough to watch it, so that said, I am a big advocate for Play. Whether this has any bearing on my children's resistance to living in reality I have no clue.
   We were lucky in living with neighbors to the left of us, wilderness to the right and I would look out in the yard and find all 3 of my girls adorned with flowers and foliage. Armed with bamboo and carrying buckets of "food" (clover, bamboo shoots, air potatoes). Acting out pirate productions, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or most often,  their own brand of adventure which could be anywhere and usually involved sticks (swords or spears) and taking people prisoner. The neighborhood children were afraid to come in our yard but sometimes I would see them peering through the fence, watching one daughter splash in the pool during the phase when she preferred speaking in ‘Orca’, while another prowled about bellowing like a T Rex and the oldest calmly cooked up a bucket of clover and coerced her sisters into eating it.  We had a black flag hanging from the big oak tree in the yard alongside the rope swing for years to strike fear in the hearts of cowering neighbors. It pretty much looked like Peter and The Lost Boys had gone co-ed.
  Now the fact is that I loved having girls and mine are flexible so we also absolutely lived in a Barbie World.  I am still finding Barbie's shoes around my house. American Girl had a hot line number just for me and the dress up box was chock full of Princess fashions. Being my girls though we also had a ready supply of trucks, Lego's, some swords and well, action figures. Hence Aragorn and Legolas which I figured would be alright seeing as they were literary. They were getting older and these came in the last couple years of really playing with toys.
  Aragorn was for Middlest. Littlest actually had a crush on Legolas which I understood because who wouldn't have a crush on Orlando Bloom... but then I realized she actually had a crush.... on Legolas. She was born with very pointed ears and the way I figured it,  thought she had found her people. I had dithered that Christmas and suddenly found...there was not a Legolas to be found. I dug through every character at the closest Kmart. In the end I went to a total of 8 stores. I devoted a whole week and realized I was screwed. It was ALL she wanted. She kept saying , "you found one right"?   "Um can't tell," I'd answer all the while thinking, I am So Screwed. Anyway a week before Christmas I was at the Kmart where I had started to begin with and out of desperation decided to look again. I Knew it wasn't there. But beneath a full peg of other characters, there he was. I had looked through every action character at this store multiple times.
That absolutely was a Christmas miracle, there is no doubt in my mind. Anyway, Aragorn and Legolas are part of the family and this has nothing to do with the story I'm telling. So...

  While their rooms were a little girls dream come true the majority of  the indoor games the two younger girls played revolved around two 6 inch stuffed characters. A dog and cat named Rusty and Scat. These were convoluted Saga's that actually never ended. They played this for Years. Littlest even began writing down stories about them. They looked divine in Kens t'shirts and Barbies skirts. Sometimes the American Girls; Molly and Felicity and if they felt daring their older sisters Samantha came out to reign at a tea party but they were from too vast a time distance to make it really work. They tended to take these out when quietly playing by themselves.

   One time we had ordered a sample selection of colored plastic lanyard string  that we used in our business.
We had a good amount of it that wouldn't be used and I brought it in to the girls and thought I'd show them how to make a lanyard key chain, which enthralled them for about 10 seconds and then they just asked if they could have the string.
  They found 1001 uses for that string. It came in handy for hostage taking situations in stuffed animal land, lassoing Rusty and Scats arch enemies,  fishing from the top bunk of the indoor pirate ship, or racing around the house at top speed with a cat in close pursuit. You never knew when you would find Barbie bungee jumping by her ankles from a ceiling fan and endless toyland ne'er do well's were hung from the gallows of the stairwell. It lasted for years and supported more games than any toy of any price they ever received. Littlest even created a song for it sang to the tune of I'm proud to be an American that involved lyrics like, "If tomorrow all the strings were gone" and "at least I know there's string." Which may have been some kind of blaspheme but she meant every word of it.

  So one day as we were sitting on the porch Littlest began the Remember game. They were thinking back on all of their favorite toys. They started with what they remembered from being very small. FisherPrice houses, Winnie the Pooh and Barney. Then on to Middlests' toy Orca whale collection (another obsession for another story) Littlests' Lego's and Magnet builders. The endless stream of Barbies were mentioned but in the context of Barbie's espionage episodes and the fights they would get in over outfits. Then they were on to the subject of Rusty and Scat. Rusty and Scat are still here safe, but they have retired. Sometimes they meet for coffee and talk about their rheumatism and the good old days but anyway...The girls talked long of the adventures of these two rascals, including the time period when Scat turned evil and Rusty had to take him on. Which reminded them of taking prisoners and all of the games that involved ........String.

There is a trunk. It is carefully packed with uber expensive American Girls and their paraphernalia as well as Angelia Ballerina and all of her furniture and the books for these characters. There are Special Edition Barbies, China tea sets and porcelain beauties wearing lace and velvet. Carefully packed away Treasured examples of  memories of Happy Childhood games that maybe one day we will take out and show the Grandchildren and tell them about their moms and pass them down as heirlooms for the young women who sat on my porch reminiscing ..........

Middlest kind of scrunched up her face thinking hard. 
"Oh wow, I remember we had that box full and we used it for everything? Whatever happened to all that string?
And Littlest, her eyes far away, answered  in a voice low and full of reverence,
"Yeah, that String...... was Awesome....."

© 2010 All Rights Reserved


  1. That brought tears to my eyes, b/c my guys are getting older.

    The most fun we had was when we had a rainy day, and I found 3 balls of twine. I let them run around the house and just wrap everything and anything up and we made the house into a giant spider web and got caught!

    So fun...*snif* *snif*

    It's now, b/c those days won't be there forever. Believe me..I am that crazyold lady who wags her finger in your face...

    Peace out.

  2. You're right - string is even better than a cardboard box, plus it fits right in my pocket!

  3. That sounds like my oldest. Yes, she has the electronics, but the most memorable games and toys are paper, yarn, markers and cardboard. That is truly all she needs in life!

  4. Great post! Is this a new template?

  5. Awwww. It is so true. My kids had everything, but would play for hours in a cardboard box.

  6. Empress: You're a wonderful mom. Crazy old cat lady here knows what you mean.

    Peryl: I would bet you really do have string in your pocket ready at a moments notice to have some fun!

    Girl Next Door: Mine are like that too. Those are the most used items in our house, beyond toilet paper...

    Erica M. Thank You and pretty new. I have to rely on the Blogger Gods for creative background.

    DG: It really is true. Kids can and will be able to make a game out of anything they are so resourceful. If we stopped buying them toys they could probably find the answer to world peace.

  7. My husband has always said,"these kids don't need toys," the fact of my daughter playing with our pots ans pans we make him right. We're very strict with our kids with the shows they watch.

  8. Sigh....wonderful, as always!! I strive for a balance between structure & freedom...let's face it, they have plenty of structure at school all day! Just this afternoon, after a particularly unsettling week with a bad scare that is still unanswered concerning the health of my 9yr old, I (WE), walked away from it all....ditched school, ditched my own blog hop LOL, & did THIS....a local family fun place, renowned for it's beautiful acreage of gardens & nature paths, closed a few years ago....the city bought it as public park lands, & it is typically also has an old mini putt course thru the woods, minus the fake turf, now just concrete...but the course/holes are all still there, in the middle of the woods. So we bought up a bunch of those giant plastic toddler golf clubs at the dollar store, collected my girlfriends 3 kids, & headed off for an afternoon of Goofy Golf on a sunny afternoon in the middle of nature....sheer bliss! And having been blessed with 2 family cottages, from May to October, my kids virtually live outside....that's what memories are made of!

  9. I don't worry about structure too much outside of school. Eve's favourite toys have been pencils and paper since she was barely two -- she opened her big pack of pencils Christmas morning, ignored the rest of the presents and laid on her tummy drawing the rest of the day. My son likes his video games but he also spends a good part of any day rain or shine outside playing road hockey, catch or basketball. Even when the tv's on they only pay attention to it for so long before wandering off to find something 'more amusing', as my son puts it.

  10. Mayor: I hope your daughter is ok. That sounds like a truly wonderful way to spend the day! Every one needs to ditch sometime and what a cool place to do it!

    Help Mama: Pots and Pans are perfect toys!

    Allison: Very cool. I love the "more amusing"!

  11. I love this post! So true, of all the things we buy kids, they tend to prefer the more inventive things! My little guy just turned 4 and I, like you were, am dreading the video game stage. I will try everything in my power to avoid it for as long as I can. It's nice now, because he loves playing outside & could roll in the grass & pick dandelions for hours! Ah, if only it could last...
    Thanks for stopping by today - I've also been meaning to visit & am so glad I did:)

  12. Delightful. I grew up in a household full of adventure and now, I'll never look at lanyard string without a smile.


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