May 29, 2024

COLUMN: The things we did as kids

This past weekend, I went to my grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin for their 50th wedding anniversary.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time playing on their farm, and those memories are ones I cherish.

As kids now have iPads, cellphones, computers and so many other gadgets to keep them busy, I wonder if they play like we used to.

I consider myself to be a creative person. I love writing, reading, painting and just creation in general. I think a lot of that stems from my childhood.

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was play in the pastures and fields on the farm. I had a name for each grove of trees. My grandpa asked me to recall them this weekend, but I could only remember one - Camelot.

My brother, sister, cousin and I would spend hours down there fighting magical “bad guys” with swords, bows and wands all fashioned from sticks. We each got to control a different element. I was air, my sister was earth, my brother was fire and my cousin was water.

We picked mulberries that stained our fingers, got stung by nettles and stained our clothes. But we went back whenever we could.

In high school, my brother took a creative writing class where he got to write and illustrate a children’s book. His was called The Elementals. It was about our adventures in the woods. I remember reading it when I was in college. He gave each of us a new warrior name that started with the same letter as our real names. At the end of the book, the four warriors walk out of the woods as children as their grandparents call them for supper.

I teared up as a read the last line. “The woods whispered, ‘Come play again.’”

My grandparents had a different section of their property they cleared out for a little campground. It wasn’t a camper that we slept in, but a little red caboose. I don’t even really remember how they got that old train car, but my grandma and I read the Boxcar Children series together, and they too lived in a red caboose.

I wanted to sleep down there every night. My grandpa would cook dinner over the fire, and we always ended with s’mores. My grandma taught me the best technique to get the perfect golden brown marshmallow while grandpa just burnt his.

We didn’t have metal s’mores sticks like they sell today, but grandpa taught me to look for wet, green sticks to poke through the marshmallows so the stick wouldn’t burn.

While the farm may have been my favorite place to play, it wasn’t the only place our imaginations ran wild. A favorite game for me and my sister was to use sidewalk chalk to create an entire home layout on the sidewalk outside our house.

We draw out the individual rooms and get to work placing our beds, closets and other necessities. I always had a magic lair with colorful beakers and vials filled with potions.

If we got bored of that, sometimes we’d play store. One of us would be the storekeeper, selling random items for nuts and sticks. It seems crazy to think we could fill hours doing this, but that’s how we played.

There’s nothing wrong with kids having iPads or cellphones. I just wonder if they get the chance to create.

I saw something that said kids doing dangerous things carefully is how they best learn. grandma and grandpa would not be happy to know I climbed to the top of the hay loft despite them specifically telling me not to. But sitting at the top, looking out over my magic kingdom, will forever be a memory I cherish.

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.