Tag Archives: childhood photos

At Play: NaPoWriMo 2018, Day 16

“Ring Around the Rosie” for my sister’s birthday & a backyard production of “Cowboys.”

At Play

“Annie I Over,” ” New Orleans.”
In shorts or dresses or cutoff jeans,
we ran and threw and played and shouted.
our pent-up energy thus outed.
“Send ‘Em,” “Ditch ‘Em,”  “Cops and Robbers.”
“Poor Pussy” turned us into sobbers.
Do you remember these childhood games?
All vastly varied, with different names?

Before TV or internet,
games were as good as one could get
for transport from reality.
Back when we were cellphone-free,
“Drop the Handkerchief” we knew well
along with “Farmer in the Dell.”
“London Bridge” went falling down
each birthday party in our town.

All the long-lit summer nights
“Cowboys and Indians” staged their fights.
“Cops and Robbers” led to searches
of school ditches and behind churches.
The whole town our playing ground,
each chid lost, each child found
in hours long games of “Hide-and-Seek.”
Count to one hundred.  Do not peek!

In childhood games of girls and boys,
imaginations were our toys.
Does such magic now reside
in minds of children safe inside
their cushioned worlds of rumpus rooms,
sealed safe within their  houses’ wombs?
For dangers real now lurk in places
that formerly hid playmates’ faces.

Safety dictates different measures
for insuring childhood pleasures.
But oh, I remember so well
joyful flight and heartful swell
of friends pursuing through the dark
back then when life was such a lark.
Now children seek  play differently
on cellphone screens and Smart TV,

scarce imagining a world
with internet not yet unfurled.
Our world had not yet been corrupted
with connections interrupted
with wireless servers on the blink,
for we needed no further link
than friends pounding upon our door
to come outside and play some more!

 

daily life color161 (1)Stylish cowboys Karen Bossart and sister Patti.

 

This is a rerun of a piece from two years ago.http://www.napowrimo.net/day-sixteen-5/

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24 thoughts on “At Play”

    1. lifelessonsPost author
      Me too. Why don’t adults ever play these games? I guess in Britain they used to…The one where one person would hide and when they were found, the person who found them would crowd in with them. More and more as the bame progressed until everyone was in one confined space with just one person left looking for them.

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      1. Karen Bossarts Rusthoven
        Oh, Judy! This was wonderful! Those were the days. What ever happened to childhood?
        Thanks for the memories! I’ll see you in September. Love you! Karen

        Liked by you

    1. lifelessonsPost author
      Did you play all of those? I’ve never met anyone else who played New Orleans. My sister and I were tryng to remember what happened after the “it” person droped the button into your hand. Wikipedia just says that everyone tries to guess who has it and the one who does then gets to be “it.” That doesnt sound very exciting, though. I thought there was some chasing involved, but perhaps I’m confusing it with “Drop the Handkerchief.” Charmingly naive names for these games, as were the rules. But what fun they were. In the winter, Fox fox Goose.

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  1. Venkatacharya
    Those were all wonderful days. I used to play many games that you mentioned above at my childhood during those years of 1950s and 60s. We miss all this happiness now.

    Liked by you

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      1. lifelessonsPost author
        Thanks, Mary. My poetry group doesn’t quite know what to make of my humorous rhymed stuff. They don’t want me to put any of it in our new anthology, which they say is intended for more “serious” poetry…But the rhymed humor cheers me up, too, when it decides to appear, so I keep welcoming it with open arms. I will describe Poor Pussy, Poor Pussy in a post.

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    1. lifelessonsPost author
      Thanks to sister Betty, at least for the first seven years of my life.Then I took over the role of family photographer, or Patti did when the photos were of me. I now take more photos in a week than we did in ten years back when it was a bit more work and a lot more money to get a photo.

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      1. lifelessonsPost author
        Is the story about the women in your family the 1500 word story you were talking about? I enjoyed it. Didn’t seem rambling. I’d enjoy knowing who the people were in the photos, though.

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  2. Mary Francis McNinch
    I longed for the simpler world, before Internet and real danger lurked. Tonight I cried. Cyberspace became a stranger, now I feel like a two faced jerk. Truly Judy.. I love the way you tell it like it is or was.

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The prompt: write a poem that prominently features the idea of play. It could be a poem about a sport or game, a poem about people who play (or are playing a game), or even a poem in the form of the rules for a sport or game that you’ve just made up 

Almost Holy

My sister Patti and I, all dressed up for church and told to smile, no doubt! Photo by sister Betty 

 

Almost Holy

I always wanted a set of those panties that had a day of the week embroidered on each one, but I grew up in an era when kids didn’t ask for things.  I know my mom would have bought them for me if she’d known, or my grandma would have ceased her endless activity of sewing sequins on felt butterflies or crocheting the edges of pillow shams long enough to embroider the days of the week onto the baggy white nylon panties jumbled into my underwear drawer. I never asked, though.  Never told.

So it was that on Sunday I’d arise and put on the same old underpants, cotton dress with ruffle, white socks, patent leather shoes. I’d take a little purse no bigger than the makeup case in the suitcase-sized purse I now carry. Into it I’d drop a quarter my dad had given me for the collection, a hanky and the lemon drop my mother always put inside just in case of a cough. I never coughed, but always ate the lemon drop, sucking on it during Sunday School and sometimes asking for another from the larger supply in her purse during church.

Why my mom never sang in the choir I don’t know.  She had a fine true voice.  Both of my older sisters did and so did I, once I was in high school.  I remember when I was little watching the choir in their fine robes that looked like they were graduating every Sunday.  They sat facing us, in three rows to the preacher’s left, as though checking up on us to make sure we didn’t misbehave or yawn or chew gum.  In addition to lemon drops, my mother always carried Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum in her purse.  Sometimes the gum was a bit red  from the rouge she always had on her fingertips on days she applied makeup. It seemed to me like the rouge flavored the gum a bit.  It tasted of clove and flowers.

“Just hold it in your mouth,” my mother instructed, my sister and me; and if we chewed, she would take it away from us. “Just chew it enough to make it soft and then hold it in your mouth.”  This was an almost impossible challenge for a child and actually even for a teenager.  By then, we’d learned to crack the gum and to blow bubbles even when it wasn’t bubble gum.  That fine pop and final sigh of air as the bubble broke–so satisfying. The threat and memory of everything we could be doing with that gum resided in each small wad of it held in our cheeks as we sat lined up like finely dressed chipmunks listening to the minister drone on.

Hymns were like the commercial breaks on television–a chance to move around a bit and look at something other than the preacher–to ponder the curious lyrics such as, “Lettuce gather at the river,” “Bringing in the sheets” and “Let me to his bosom fly.”  (Just what was a bosom fly and what had lettuce and collecting sheets from the clothesline to do with religion? Once again, we didn’t ask.)

Then we’d sit down again for the Apostle’s Creed or a prayer or benediction or the interminable expanse of the sermon–half an hour with no break.  I’d listen to the drone of the flies buzzing in circles at the window, or the sound of cars passing in the summer, when the front and back doors were left open to encourage  breeze where no breeze existed.

Now and then a curious dog would wander in and be ushered out by the man who stood at the door to hand out church programs.  Everyone would hear the scramble of dog toenails on the wooden aisle and turn to watch and laugh.  Even the minister would laugh and say say something like, “All of God’s creatures seek to commune with him upon occasion.”  Then everyone would laugh softly again before he turned his attention back to telling us what was wrong with us and how to remedy it.

That afternoon, Lynnie Brost and I were going to play dress up and have a tea party under the cherry trees and bury a treasure there.  We’d already assembled it: my mom’s old ruby necklace, a handful of her mom’s red plastic cancer badges shaped like little swords with a pin at the back to put on your collar to show you’d given to the campaign,  my crushed penny from the train track, her miniature woven basket from South America that her missionary sister had brought her, a tattered love comic purloined from her older sister. (We’d “read” it first–which at our age meant looking at the pictures.)

I fell asleep thinking of what else we could add to our cache, to be dug up again in ten years or for as long later as we could stand to put off exhuming it. I leaned against my mother as I slept, and if she noticed, she did nothing to awaken me.  She shook me a bit, gently, as the congregation stood after the sermon, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” as the minister marched down the aisle, smiling and greeting parishioners and the choir followed him, as though they were being let out early for good behavior.  At the door, we greeted the preacher again, standing in line to shake hands and be blessed, then ticked off his mental list of who had been among the faithful on this fine summer day when they could have been out mowing the grass or rolling in the piles of grass emptied from the clipping bag.

Then we drove the block home, for no one ever walked in a small town.  Well done rump roast for dinner, as we called the noon meal. Mashed potatoes, brown gravy, canned string beans, a salad with homemade Russian dressing and ice cream or jelly roll for dessert.  All afternoon to play. Another small town South Dakota Sunday of an endless progression strung out from birth to age eighteen, when I departed for college and the rest of my Agnostic life.

 

This is an essay from almost 5 years ago. Hopefully, you’ve either not been reading my blog for that long or you’ve forgotten it and it will read like new, as it did for me. I missed the boat when it came to religion, but it wasn’t for lack of experience. The prompt today is almost.

Uncornered

    Uncornered

daily life color103 (1)                                                        bjdwphoto

Corners are the great equalizer, for it is a fact that no matter how large or small the house, every corner is exactly the same size. I remember being so small that I could fit all the way into a corner, right up to where it bent. If I was facing the wall, I could hold my head straight and fit my tongue into the crack that spread out in an L to form the two sides of the corner. If I faced outwards, I felt less punished and more ready to branch out from the corner into the kitchen, perhaps, with the refrigerator to be visited and a cherry popsicle to be collected on my way out into the world of my house.

Lying on my back on the purple living room rug––a floor that, although it extended to each corner of the room, had no actual corners itself. No chance of punishment. Facing downwards on the rug was entertainment: playing jacks or putting together a picture puzzle, moving paper dolls around their world of Kleenex box furniture, pot and pan swimming pools and matchbox coffee tables. In this paper universe were treasures purloined from the jewelry boxes of our mothers. Rhinestone bracelets became flapper necklaces and ruby-colored rings bangle bracelets. A folding fan stretched from side-to-side of the corner became the dressing room where Debra Paget donned her dressing gown, slipping out of her red paper high heels.

In the corner of my sister’s closet was the little cave I’d carved out of the shoe boxes and cardboard boxes of cast-off toys. There I’d wait for her to arrive home with friends in tow, to eavesdrop on their conversations in hopes of finding out who the boy was who had called her on the phone and hung up without identifying himself when he asked if she was there and I’d said no, she was out on a date. I might discover what she was going to give me for my birthday or hear any of the interesting secrets shared by girls four years my senior. But instead, it was the corner I fell asleep in, to wake up hours later when my mother called us down to supper.

“Where’s Judy?” I heard her ask my sister from the bottom of the stairs.

“She’s not up here,” I heard my sister answer as she went hop skipping down the stairs, two at a time. Even after I heard the door close at the bottom of the stairs, I stayed quietly where I was, barely breathing.

Five minutes later, I heard my sister clomping up the stairs again—looking in every room, the bathroom, under beds, in every closet except her own—I guess because she knew I couldn’t be there since she’d been in her own room for the hour before supper. I stayed quiet, giggling inside.

After my sister went downstairs,  I sneaked quietly out into the hall and down the stairs in my stocking feet, then creaked open the door and went running around the corner into the kitchen and dinette to take my usual place at the table—on the bench against the wall.

“Where were you?” my sister asked, “You weren’t anywhere!”

“It’s a secret!” I answered, and to this day, my whereabouts that day are an unsolved family mystery.

“Where was she?” They ask each other. Then, “Where were you?” they ask me again, but try as they may, no one has ever cornered me to give an answer.

For the Word Press Weekly Photo Prompt–Corner.  The photo is by my sister Betty Jo.  The commentary is a story formerly blogged by me.

At Play

“Ring Around the Rosie” for my sister’s birthday & a backyard production of “Cowboys.”

At Play

“Annie I Over,” ” New Orleans.”
In shorts or dresses or cutoff jeans,
we ran and threw and played and shouted.
our pent-up energy thus outed.
“Send ‘Em,” “Ditch ‘Em,”  “Cops and Robbers.”
“Poor Pussy” turned us into sobbers.
Do you remember these childhood games?
All vastly varied, with different names?

Before TV or internet,
games were as good as one could get
for transport from reality.
Back when we were cellphone-free,
“Drop the Handkerchief” we knew well
along with “Farmer in the Dell.”
“London Bridge” went falling down
each birthday party in our town.

All the long-lit summer nights
“Cowboys and Indians” staged their fights.
“Cops and Robbers” led to searches
of school ditches and behind churches.
The whole town our playing ground,
each chid lost, each child found
in hours long games of “Hide-and-Seek.”
Count to one hundred.  Do not peek!

In childhood games of girls and boys,
imaginations were our toys.
Does such magic now reside
in minds of children safe inside
their cushioned worlds of rumpus rooms,
sealed safe within their  houses’ wombs?
For dangers real now lurk in places
that formerly hid playmates’ faces.

Safety dictates different measures
for insuring childhood pleasures.
But oh, I remember so well
joyful flight and heartful swell
of friends pursuing through the dark
back then when life was such a lark.
Now children seek  play differently
on cellphone screens and Smart TV,

scarce imagining a world
with internet not yet unfurled.
Our world had not yet been corrupted
with connections interrupted
with wireless servers on the blink,
for we needed no further link
than friends pounding upon our door
to come outside and play some more!

daily life color161 (1)Stylish cowboys Karen Bossart and sister Patti.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/playful/

To a Pensive Pre-Teen

(I posted this photo this morning but had appointments all day long until now, when I’m finally posting a poem to go with it. I just now noticed it is my 2,000th post in this blog!!)

DSC00027 - Version 2
Judy Dykstra-Brown Photo

To a Pensive Pre-teen with Her Toes Curled in the Sand,
Outside the Beachside Cafe with Her Chin Cupped in Her Hand

What might you be dreaming of?
What thoughts have formed your frown,
child sitting on the steps
where ocean meets the town?

Perhaps you do not have a coin
to stay the vendor’s cart
for paletas of strawberry
or guava, cold and tart.

Perhaps you do not wish to stay
and yet you cannot leave.
There are so many stories
that a taleteller could weave.

But the truth is, you’re eleven,
and your parents are inside.
Reason enough for you to choose
the company of the tide.

 

Note: A paleta is an ice cream bar or popsicle.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/pensive/

Dining Out

daily life color109 (1)
Perhaps considering my next order?

Dining Out

I do not remember the first time I ate out at a restaurant, but I have heard a story over and over about the first time I ordered for myself.   I couldn’t have been over two years old when my folks took me out to a movie and then to Mac’s cafe for a drink and a visit with town folks afterwards.  We lived in a town of seven hundred people in the middle of the South Dakota prairie.  Our sole entertainment, other than church and school ballgames, was the Saturday or Sunday night picture show in the small theater on Main Street.  It was the social event of the week, and visiting with friends afterwards at Mac’s Cafe across the street from the theater was as much a part of the evening as the movie.

Later, in college, one of my best friends was the granddaughter of the man who owned the theater and she revealed to me that it never had made a profit.  He just kept it running to give the folks in the town where his wife had taught school as a young woman something to do.

Probably 200 of the 700 citizens of our town were members of a pentecostal church who didn’t believe in dancing, movies,  or even TV, so at twenty-five cents per ticket, I’m sure if everyone in town had gone to a show one time a week, it still would not have paid the overhead, so we should have figured that out long ago, but we hadn’t thought of it––at least no one in my family ever did.

I had two older sisters, so if I was two when this story happened, one must have been about six and the other would have been thirteen.  They ordered Cokes.  My folks ordered coffee, and when it came to me, I responded in the only way I knew to respond in a restaurant.  “Amgooboo an tabey dabey!” I ordered.

The waitress looked puzzled.  “She said hamburger and potatoes and gravy,” said my father, deadpan.  The waitress looked at my mother.  If that was what I wanted at ten o’clock at night, my mother was all for it.  The waitress left and my family struggled to keep straight faces but it just didn’t work.  They all exploded in laughter, which was fine with me.  I’d been entertaining them for as long as I could remember–and I think perhaps I still am to this day!


The Prompt: Tell about the first time you ever ate out in a restaurant.

Merry-Go-Round


daily life color086 (1)
My sister and I at a park near my grandma’s house in Kansas on a merry-go-round similar to the one in the school playground across from our house in South Dakota.

                                                                   Merry-Go-Round

Their creaks were my alarm that kids were on the elementary school playground across the street and if my biggest sister was downstairs or away from home or even sleeping as soundly as she always did after coming home late the night before, I’d sneak into her room to look out on the playground from above and see who was there. I knew the difference in the sound between the merry-go-round and each set of swings—the little swings next to the little slide, or one of the three big sets directly across from the block my house was on. Higher, with longer and more flexible chains, these swings could be made to loop de loop—pass up so high that you actually went over the top of the frame the swings were suspended from and wound the chain once around the pipe.

Some of the boys could repeat this three or four times until the swing got so high that none of the little kids could get up to it. Then the janitors would have to get their tallest ladder and go up to push the seat over and over the cross pole with one of their big push brooms to straighten it out again and bring the seat down closer to earth.

There were rules forbidding loop de looping, but the boys would come after school when all the teachers had gone home and even our janitors, Mr. and Mrs. Polachek, who lived kitty-corner across from the south end of the playground, were at home in their backroom away from the sounds of kids in the neighborhood, sealed up tight and safe. They were Polish, and now that I think of it, probably displaced persons from WWII. Their accents were thick and her temper was short and they were the objects of constant tauntings from the boys. One year the boys had hung a dead cat from their front porch on Halloween. I wish I could remember whether I thought this was funny, as many of the kids did. I hope I didn’t––that I was as sickened by it then as I am now.

The creak I was listening for was the creak of the merry-go-round. Teepee shaped, it had a wooden runner all the way around it a foot up from the ground. There was a handrail about thirty inches above it, so you could stand on the wooden runner, facing the center pole, hold onto the hand rail and enjoy the ride as the big kids ran around in circles around the merry-go-round, pulling it with them to go faster and faster, then stood on four sides of it, grabbing the handrail pipe and pushing it off to make it go faster still. One by one, more onlookers would be enrolled in the joint effort to get it going fast enough. Then they’d jump on and everyone would pump up and down, sticking their bottoms out into space as they bent their knees, pumping to keep up the momentum.

There were other ways to use the Merry-go-round. The bigger girls like Marie Holstedt who lived on the street that faced the opposite side of the playground from the one my house faced, would sit on the foot board with her boyfriend Robert. Their feet side by side on the ground, they would sway to and fro in a kind of two-step movement—two to the right, then one to the left––their knees touching with their swing to the right, their hips touching when they swung to the left. When they did this, the sound of the merry-go-round reminded me of the strange rhythmic creaking I’d hear sometimes late at night in my house.

It was probably the TV antenna on the roof, my mother had said. Or maybe the furnace trying to pump out heat, she had speculated when I pointed out that it had been a windless night.
Life was simple and I believed her. Only now do I make sense of it and of my father’s late night short trips down the hall to the bathroom—the washcloth always draped over the tub faucet the next morning.

It was an innocent age where it was entirely possible to be eleven years old and to never have had the least idea that anything like sex existed in the world. Yet a good deal of what eventually led up to it went on in the playground across from my house. Older girls would sit in the swings, swaying back and forth without ever taking their feet from the ground. Or, take fast running steps forward and backward without really letting go and allowing the lift off. To their side or in front of them would be their crush of the day or the week or the hour. If he was not the boy of choice, sometimes the girls would switch swings. If the boy switched again, too, and the other boy let him, then it was a sign language of sorts that indicated which boy favored which girl, and if the girls went home, a clear message that things had not matched up correctly to their satisfaction.

But at other times––usually during games of ditch ‘em played in the twilight and darkness of summer, courtships could progress toward hunkering down in the ditches around the playground, close up to some culvert where the ditches were their deepest, the girl in front, the boy with his arms around her waist, holding her back from running to try to get to home base when one of the littler kids who was “it” ran past without seeing them. In these junior high years just past childhood, the objects of the games started to shift until finally in high school, the rituals of the old games were left behind entirely and ditch ‘em became merely a starting place––as did the swinging back and forth, the pumping, the dance.

Today, with merry-go-rounds a thing of the past, they are still an appropriate metaphor for what life pushes us toward from our birth. It begins with our rocking in the arms of our mothers, the rocking chairs of our grandmothers, the wild swings through the air locked hand-to-hand with our fathers. It is what slippery slides and swings and merry-go-rounds and dancing move us towards. Everything going around and around and in doing so really going back and forth from generation to generation. Passing the world on and fading away. Now and then doing a loop de loop just because we can.

daily life color087 (1) daily life color088 (1)
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ode to a Playground.”A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.

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