It’s often said that kids have more fun with the box a Christmas present comes in than in the actually gift. I recall something else that my friends and I used to have a bit of fun. It all started back in grade school. I think it was in Mrs. Bresnahand’s class. She brought in some small tiles, like the ones I’d seen my dad use in the bathrooms of the apartment building he owned. I had to wonder: What in the world was she going to do with them?
She laid out a large piece of thick cardboard on a table, put a bucket of tiles nearby and got some good old fashion Elmer’s Glue. After that, she used various markers: pens, pencils and magic markers to create a sort of map on the board. There were streets and buildings, grassy parks, and even sidewalks. Next came the construction phase that was my favourite! Using the glue, she started to build a house with the tiles. Yet, she didn’t use the tiles as I expected. She stood them on edge, and thus the tiles formed the walls of the building.
Once she’d shown us the basic premise of the system, that was it, we were off! We built houses, and then used crayons to make the roads, sidewalks, dirt paths, and so on. We even figured out how to make some of the buildings two-story. Once we finished the outline of a building, we’d cover it with construction paper to make the roof. After that, the second story added, but, we quickly learned that only putting up an outer wall was insufficient; the roof would sag. We added inner walls, and then our buildings soared!
We didn’t have any little people small enough to populate our town, this was in the days before the little Lego figures and our G.I. Joe action figures were way, too big. We used our Matchbox cars. In no time, we were making car noises, engines revving, horns honking, as we raced and zipped our cars around our new town. Of course, now that I’d had a “taste” of playing with this sort of thing, just doing it at school, in my free time, was not going to be enough. It wasn’t long before I had a town of my own at home, and my friends and I played for many hours with it. As it was about our third or fourth try at building a town, we were now old hands at it; we even managed a three-story apartment complex, and my friend Harvey had a landing pad for his jet. This was before real planes were capable of vertical takeoff and landing, but that didn’t apply to a child’s imagination!
At the end of the school year, Mrs. Bresnahand was nice enough to let us take the town we built, home, with us. I got one that, quite ironically, lined up nicely with the city I already had. Talk about a major metropolitan area!
Those little tile towns afforded my friends and me many hours of childhood joy, and yet how simple they were. Finally, after quite a few years, I reluctantly passed them on to my oldest nephew; my mom felt I had outgrown them. That led to still more happy times for him and his friends. Thanks again, Mrs. B, you sure knew your stuff.
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.