These days, kids tend to play their video games PlayStation, Xbox, computer simulations etc and thats how they spend their time. Or, there are the organized play dates, we take our kids to theme parks or playgrounds, hire clowns and entertainers, all manner of regiments forms of play that schedule their playtime down to the last minute.
That doesnt exactly leave much room for free thought and creativity. Back when I was about five or six, my parents got a new couch for our living room. Now, my Dad being a frugal New Englander, he was loathed to just throw out the old couch after all, he still had a lot of good mileage left in it. So, he and my older brothers carried it down into the basement as we used to say in New England down cellar.
It became the foundation of countless hours of fun, and all without doing a thing. My friends and I played on that old sofa; it was our tank going into battle, our submarine for exploring the deep, our B-52 bomber flying over Germany, and our raft floating across the Pacific. As we watched TV and saw movies, it was the place we re-created those adventures. We tumbled across it after seeing The Poseidon Adventure, and we wanted to do our own version of the ship flipping over. We raced under the sea after seeing, the movie, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, as we battled Mobula, the giant manta ray, we rafted through a violent storm after seeing Journey to the Center of the Earth. I always got to be Professor Lindenbrook, and we defeated countless opponents, such as Speed Racer and his mechanic, Sparky." No one wanted to be Trixie; go figure.
Over time, our imaginations grew or rather outgrew the couch and soon our adventures encompassed more of the cellar. Fortunately, it was a fairly open and clean space to play in. Off to one side was a large shelf set into an opening in the wall. The shelf was rectangular in shape, but the opening was trapezoidal thus it had small triangular openings at each end and us being small gangly boys, we could easily fit through them. In front of the shelf were thin sheets of paneling, but my dad being quite the procrastinator had never nailed them in place. So, we would slide one off to the side slightly, and then climb under the shelf.
This became our clubhouse, our command center, our bunker and radio room. We set an old broken radio on a box, and we were ready for any adventure. Up on the shelf, we piled some old pillows on the edge, and thus had a true fortress. Between the couch and the shelf, we could journey to any place and live out any expedition we chose to create.
So often, my mother would be after us to go out and play, but the cellar was always so much more fun. Also, once the winter months closed in about us, it was too cold to play outside; so we had the perfect excuse to stay in.
When we moved out of the house when I was twelve I packed up my room and left without looking back. It was just a bedroom. When we emptied the living room, I helped to sweep up, and that was that. After all, it was just a place to watch TV or listen to the stereo. I helped my Mother pack some of the dishes and pots and pans from the kitchen, but that was all. It was a place to eat and she did some great cooking, let me tell you yet, that was all the room meant to me.
Ah, but the cellar. Now, there was a room I said a right and proper farewell to. I sat on that old couch for a good while; my mind flipping back through the years to remember fondly all that that plain, old couch had given me and my friends. No, it didnt have electronics or a flat screen; it didnt have several gigs of memory or surround sound speakers. All it was, was an old couch that was our magic carpet. It took us to places that no computer or video game could because they were all right inside us.
What a pity more kids cant experience that today.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.