Friday, October 19, 2012

The Thrills And The Spills

I was recently telling Zoe and her friend about my experiences in grade school PE class.
The days of dodgeball, tall and scorching hot metal slides placed on top of concrete, football games using a tennis ball conducted on asphalt.
There were no safety mats covered in recycled rubber tire shavings, no care if you tore a hole in your jeans for the third time in a week, no worries that you chipped four teeth crashing your face into the asphalt, no problem at all if you got your skull rattled by a line drive half-deflated dodge ball thrown by the biggest kid in fourth grade.

In those times a kid could bring a cigar to school and no one found out.
Everyone was amazed by the thing.
You going to smoke that later?!
There were no narcs back then.

The days when we went to the local swimming pool and dared each other to jump off of the high dive.
That thing seemed to be a hundred feet in the air.
The platform hiding in the clouds.
Our family belonged to a local swim club, members only.
Rumor had it that some kid had slipped off of the high dive once.
Cracked his skull on the concrete.
His head was the cause of the splintered square below.
But we kept climbing up there.
Hoping we didn't crash off of the side in a slippery run to the end of the springy green board.
And then hoping you didn't lose your swim bottoms in the diving well when the force of the water against your body pummeled you.

There were no car seats.
We all walked or rode our bikes to school even if we lived a half mile or more away.
We rode our bikes down winding, blind cornered roads to the get to the swim club.
We had carefree days and thought nothing of it when we went walking through the woods with our water raft, sailed down the wide creek until it reached the lake.
Then we walked home on the railroad tracks.

Not a care in the world.

That was before the Internet and cable television for all.
Before there were hoards of strangers telling us what we should be afraid of.
Scaring us to be safe or else.
I certainly don't miss the days of dodgeball.
I was pretty good at hiding behind others so that they could deflect the bombardment, though.
But I do miss that high dive and the thrill of the unknown.
The climb, the run, then the hurtling descent into the cold welcoming water below.
The thrill of childhood.
If my own kids decided to do it, though, I would be hiding my eyes behind my beach towel the whole time.
Or persuading them not to do it in the first place.

If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.
~Tom Stoppard


  1. It is hard sometimes to keep everything that the media shoves down our throats and pierces into our brains at a reasonable, logical, skeptical distance. I try very hard to NOT buy into the fear that I am told that I supposed to have with practically everything, especially with my children! One of the phrases I hear often from others is that the world is a different place now a days......and that is the reasoning behind holding their children's hands/protecting them from the "dangers" of the world through college and sometimes beyond!!!! Oh, my brain does a little explosion every time I hear it! I enjoyed reading Free Range Kids and Last Child in the Woods. We are really doing our kids a disservice sheltering them so much. I try telling people that I am more likely to kill my own child in a car wreck than the things they so greatly fear happening. I could go on and on!

  2. I don't know why my computer won't let me reply to your comment Carla, but I wanted to respond with this...
    I really don't think the world is any scarier now than it was in the 70's or 80's. The media just does a better job of telling us what to be afraid of. Scare sells.
    Stupid computer.

  3. I am not interested in buying what they are selling! ;)