What Place Sends Your Imagination Into Overdrive?
(Photo courtesy of “Bobistraveling” via Flickr.com/Creative Commons)
They called it . . . *cue creepy music* . . . The Barrens.
Named by a couple of 10-year-old boys, of which my son Joey was one, The Barrens was a rough half acre of swampy stink-land that existed outside our subdivision and was good for nothing much except the proliferation of germs. The slimy stuff generated by The Barrens and places like it is the reason moms everywhere own boxes of rubber gloves and truckloads of industrial disinfectant.
It is also the fuel that fires childhood imaginations and generates interactive world building, and is the reason that some moms—oh, okay, this mom—allowed after-school playtime to include The Barrens.
Looking back, I suppose allowing my oh-so-adorable offspring to hang out in that hotbed of bacteria, home to smelly algae and probably, now that I think about it, maybe a couple different breeds of poisonous snakes, was probably not the wisest maternal move. Today I’d be carted away in handcuffs for child neglect and my sweetie-pie-darlin’ would be shuttled off to foster care with my poor husband standing at the door doing a fine impression of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
Fortunately, no one blabbed.
My son would leave home bound for The Barrens and smelling like a little boy after a long day at school—if I close my eyes I can still breathe in that sweet-sweat odor overlying the distinctive aroma of dirty socks and Jolly Ranchers—and he’d return at dinnertime muddy and slick with slime, happy and smiling like he’d just won the lottery.
Once I figured out that clothing worn to The Barrens would never see the right side of clean again, he was threatened with grounding if he didn’t stop wearing his good clothes on those after-school adventures. His dad insisted he hose himself off before even stepping into the garage, let alone the house.
But, oh, the joy that was The Barrens! At one point Joey and his pal uncovered a discarded something-or-other that they fashioned into an ersatz raft. They created their own domain in that overgrown, marshy mess, devised countless scenarios of good-versus-evil, strategized world-saving battles, performed grand rescues and great escapes. The Barrens was the place their imaginations took flight, where they worked together to incorporate the landscape into their play, to investigate sounds and sights and enjoy more than their fair share of gross icky stuff.
My husband was once invited to accompany Joey to The Barrens, a dubious honor if ever there was one. I was invited, too, but declined, preferring to remain at home with the aforementioned rubber gloves and disinfectant at the ready. Hubby spent a couple hours out there with our young ‘un and returned home looking rather boyish and germ-ridden himself, declaring The Barrens to be both “completely disgusting” and “so cool!” Ah, yes. High praise indeed.
I hadn’t thought about The Barrens for years, but over the weekend my son Joey, now 32, said something to his wife that brought it rushing back. He said, “You have obviously never been a 10-year-old boy, Babe, or you’d know that you can do all kinds of crazy things and nothing bad happens.”
This statement isn’t true, of course. Crazy things being done often result in bad happenings. And yet . . . it is also true that life is to be lived, explored, tasted, embraced. It is to be imagined and reached for. And is there any other being in all the world that does those things with quite the verve of a 10-year-old whose imagination is allowed to soar?
For me, it was the salt water marshes of Lieutenant Island, Cape Cod where the gulls screeched and the soldier crabs scurried. It was the banks of the Concord River and the inlets where bullfrogs and dragonflies became whatever creatures I imagined in the moment. It was the backyard patio where I’d sit on my grandma’s lap watching the Arizona sunset while she told me Bible stories—in my mind the sunset was God’s way of showing us the coat of many colors. Places, with all of their scents, sounds, and textures have the power to spark imagination.
The Barrens. Slimy, icky, full of germs and creatures that croak, slither, and make adults cringe.
So freakin’ cool.
Did you have a place like The Barrens when you were a kid? If not, where did you go to let your imagination run wild? Where do you go now? What place has that power for you? Please put yourself in the Buff! Tell me about your coolest play places.
Thanks for hanging out with me. Have a great Wednesday!
See you next week for more of the Naked Truth –