When I got to work at 8:30 this morning, it was already 70 degrees out; sunny and pure gorgeous. My place of work is a private home perched on a huge hill out in the country; surrounded by cow pastures and the Dan River beyond. There is a red Radio Flyer wagon on the porch, and when I saw it, I had the sudden urge to get in the wagon and go careening down the hill as fast as it would take me.... like I used to do as a kid. That got me thinking about all the crazy, and sometimes dangerous things I did growing up.
I spent my childhood in a rural, farming community of North Carolina; and we did "country" things to amuse ourselves. This was 20 plus years ago.... so my sisters and brothers and I didn't have cell phones and iPads to play games. There was not Facebook and Twitter, and my parents didn't believe in video games. Or TV. We watched movies (on VHS!) but that was it. My parents were old school; and my Mom was a hippie holdover from the 70s, so they believed in the power of imagination and the health benefits of playing outdoors.
In addition to riding our Radio Flyer wagon (gift from Grandma who believed in old fashioned toys like those Radio Flyers from the good ol' days) down hills at insane speeds, and very often crashing in a heap at the bottom (those Radio Flyers didn't have the best steering), we did things like.....
- Roll down the hill over and over until we were dizzy and puked, plus covered in grass and dirt
- Roll down the hill in a rusty metal barrel we dug up in the woods someplace (tetanus, anyone?)
- Ride our bikes across the river to the cornfield and play hide and seek in it's 20 + acres. Plus, we ate the corn, and if you've ever eaten corn meant to be cow feed, you know that it can make you sick sick sick. yeah.
- Ride our horses out in a thunderstorm on purpose; while Mom thought we were at the barn cleaning tack or mucking stalls or something
- Race our horses in John Scott's hayfield, helmet-less
- Swim in the farm pond (The memory makes me cringe. It was like a glorified mud puddle. Both my sister and I got ear infections afterwords. Eeeeeeewww!)
- Swam in the creek while it was flooded and barely made it out. We removed our clothes and tied them together, then tied them to a branch, to give us something to hold onto to get back across to the "home" side. (We swam in the creek fully clothed.) I lost my shorts and walked home in a towel
- Walked up the creek a mile and a half to the huge rock cliff in the creek bend, climbed up 15 or so feet, and leapt off into the murky waters
- Jumped off our friends' boat house roof and into the lake
- I snuck up and rode the neighbor's horse bareback, and he bolted for the barn. I fell off and one of his hooves clipped my arm - I made my sister swear not to tell our Mom and Dad and never did it again
- Rode horses on the highway and even raced traffic sometimes
- At the park we'd get on the "big swings", pump as high as we could, and then jump off. Man, when your pockets got stuck on the seats, it was a bad fall. I am surprised none of us broke our necks
- Went sledding late at night after the snow had melted slightly and re-froze, making a slicker surface... for hours we would do crazy sledding stunts with the neighbor kids, very often crashing into things and whacking out heads on solid ice. One night I fell off my sled and hit my head so hard I saw stars. I never told my Mom, and chances are I had a concussion from it. Later in my life, when I had several serious concussions from horseback riding accidents, I remembered that after hitting my head on the ice, my head felt the exact same way as when I hit my head falling off horses over jumps.
My parents aren't to blame! They didn't know what was going on behind their back. I know that If they knew half of the crazy stuff we were doing out there, they would have stepped in with a "How about let's not do that, ok?"
I also did normal things like play with dolls and decorate doll houses. Plus, my Mom made me learn embroidery and I spent a lot of time doing that; even as a kid. I loved it. And I read books all the time. So I enjoyed craziness - and normalcy. I guess I have been this way my whole life... the best of both worlds.
It was the best way to grow up - I wouldn't trade it for all the electronic stuff kids do today for the world! There is a lot to be said for a good, old fashioned, country raisin'.