the creativity of childhood

In a time before 8-year-olds had iPhones and Xboxes, childhood was magical in its simplicity.

I sound like I’m getting old…but after all, I’m nearly 20, or I will be in 10 days. Happy early birthday to me.

But the truth is, being a 90′s kid, I’m part of the last generation to experience the wonder of imagination and creativity. I would live for the coming of spring and the first warm day when the daffodils were just beginning to peep through the winter layers of leaves, when I could run outside in my little dress and bare feet and feel the sun kiss my face. “Let’s go exploring!” my siblings or I would suggest. “To Treetop Fortress!” we would exclaim as we ran through the soft spring grass to the glorious fallen tree we called our fortress. When we would come in at lunchtime, our mama would kiss the tops of our heads. “You smell like sunshine!” she would tell us.

We lived for adventure in those days. We were constantly coming up with new ideas, some better than others. There was “towagoning” — the term I coined for riding a wagon down the hill. That was a good idea. Riding my bike off the end of the old carriage block was not.

Little wild strawberry things grew in our yard, and my brother and I would coat them in sugar, freeze them, and eat them. That was a good idea. My sister’s water-and-onion-grass stew was not.

We made miniature clothes out of leaves with clovers or the little wild strawberries as corsages. We built forts with random objects in our shed which we may or may not have had permission to use. We ate honeysuckle and drank dirty water out of the garden hose. We got some old lock pins from our dad (ooh, shiny!) and hammered them into pieces of wood to make colorful mosaics. We climbed trees and played dress-up. We chased lightning bugs till it was too dark to see.

And as we got older, after Treetop Fortress was finally demolished and tears shed, we decided we needed to move on to more realistic, grown-up fun. So we made elaborate plans to take over the storage room that was the old smokehouse on our property. We worked long and hard to turn that place into a second home. Looking back now, I’m still impressed at what we accomplished. It became our clubhouse — and a darn good one if I may say so. We had a little white table with a red checkered tablecloth. Pictures on the walls. Squares of scrap carpet that became our rug. A loft with a mattress where we actually all slept one night when the cousins came to visit. And best of all, a record player, where we would play Dolly Parton and Christopher Cross and The Hard Travelers for hours on end. We spent the majority of our days out there reading books or playing with Barbies or just being awesome. Our dad even installed a heater so we could keep playing out there in the winter. When we got really ambitious, we even tried to turn it into a cafe, with our signature dish being Chef Julian’s “pizza” — microwaved whole grain bread with ketchup and sliced cheese. (I said some ideas were better than others.)

Sometimes, when I walk in there, I can still see it. Oh, it’s since become a messy storage room again. There are pieces of furniture covered with ghostly white sheets and boxes of Christmas ornaments, my horse’s old saddle and that little white table forgotten in the corner. But if I listen, I can almost hear the whispers of little children and the familiar music that characterized those days gone by. Those were the glory days, when dreams were reality and boredom wasn’t a word. I may have suffered more cuts and scrapes and bee stings than the younger generation, but because my childhood was full of joy, my adulthood is full of memories.

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We’re all grown up now, but through the years we have stayed close, and none of us has lost our imagination or our desire to dream. Charity works at The Preservation Station, an architectural antique place in Nashville. Creative as ever, she makes coasters out of fireplace tiles and earrings out of keyhole covers. The one who took charge of cleaning up our clubhouse and made us Barbie clothes is now a domestic housewife and seamstress and a fabulous cook who always wants to try a new recipe. Fortunately the onion grass has not put in an appearance. You can check out her blog here. Julian, always artsy, is a very talented piano player and composer, and spent his summer in Europe playing at a music festival in Orvieto, Italy. The two of us haven’t lost our randomness — a few weeks back when we were both home from school, we decided to sing everything in opera for an entire day. This made for an awkward moment when Charity called and I had to answer the phone operatically, but she understood. And I, the one with ten thousand spiral notebooks of unfinished stories, obviously still love to write, as well as doing photography and scrapbooking. You can check out my photo blog here. Still too adventurous to settle down, I’ve changed my major multiple times. Also I still love shiny things.

In the future, some young child will ask me what I did when I was a kid. And with a nostalgic smile and faraway eyes I will tell them of clover chain crowns and wood mosaics and fallen trees. And with cell phone in hand and text messages waiting for a reply in a busy world that forces maturity too soon, they will respond in confusion, “Whatever…”

I can only hope that if I ever have children, they will always come in smelling like sunshine.

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Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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