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©June 2004

Carol Jane Remsburg




The Games We Play



You know what I discovered just recently?  I REALLY AM getting old and I think our kids have missed the boat on entertainment during the summer months.  Granted, I had my daughter at just beyond the median age at the time, but now many women are waiting until their 40's to give birth (may God help them).  However, I was 30 when I had Erin and thought I was running well behind the pack when most women began their families by 25 at the latest.  Being born in the 60's as opposed to being born in the 90's has an enormous difference in correlation in how the world was and now is, especially when summer vacation rolls around for the kids.


Let's see, up until last year, once school was out, my daughter went to "day camp" which is fun for the kids.  They do crafts, play outside, watch movies in air conditioned comfort, play group games like box hockey and soccer or board games.  They even occasionally have access to a computer to help contribute to the camp newsletter.  And at least twice a week they would have a trip.  On Tuesdays they would go skating or bowling and every Friday they went swimming and then had hotdogs later.  What is NOT TO LOVE about this camp?  Nothing at all.  However the kid finally got too old to attend other than being a junior counselor which would have been fine, except getting her up in the mornings was still awful and I wanted her to have one summer to be lazy before she got her first job.


School has now been officially over for one week.  The kid is bored.  Can I tell you this kid has either hosted or been to a sleepover every weekend since April?  It's now the end of June.  Oh, and most of those weekends WE were hosting….either one or two or a whole gaggle of girls.  Last weekend was the campfire with weenies, marshmallows, and ghost stories which quite appropriately fell on my dad's birthday as he did them the best.  This past Friday Erin went to a friend's for the day to swim and I picked them up and brought them home.  One saving grace is after I fed them and they watched a movie, they were so beat they just went to sleep—I marked it on the calendar because THAT will never happen again in my lifetime.  On Saturday I woke them up and hustled them through showers and dragged them off to the mall, that mecca of all teens, where they browsed and shopped and bought.  I took them to a nice lunch and then a movie.  Somehow I don't EVER remember MY MOTHER doing that.


Later in the early evening we enjoyed our grand-nephew for a few hours as his parents went to dinner for their anniversary.  Hubby's family arrived to wish birthday greetings and visit.  It was nice all around—right up until Erin was racing through the backyard with her cousins and fell and busted up her ankle.  She's sprained it and is now the resident invalid but the hours of boredom are beginning to take their toll and that ankle is getting better at lightspeed.


The pattern of "BUSY" seems to have been set on "HIGH" over the last months and it shows no signs of slowing down and the kid is muttering about being BORED…  Granted she has a job this summer and this entails that she keeps the house clean.  She doesn't have to cook but she does have to do dishes and she doesn't even have to do the yard work or the laundry.  For this she earns the payment of her, gulp, cellphone that I cry over every time the bill comes.  I won't tell her this phone is almost necessary as the summer is so I can instantly get in touch with her and still know she's breathing when I get my breaks.  Let's keep my sanity our little secret shall we?  Then that and all her text-messaging.


Meanwhile, the kid has a computer to use, an X-Box, the phone, all the movies we've bought over the years, and satellite TV all in the comfort of air conditioning.  Outside she's got a huge backyard to ride her bike around and kittens to play with.  Even with all that, she's constantly on the go either to a store or to a friend's house or visiting family or our visits to the library.  There simply are not enough hours in the day to fill all she thinks she needs to be doing.  She exhausts me even thinking about it.


Thus, on this Sunday, a QUIET Sunday, one, for once without any plans, she's BORED.  When I was a kid if that single word was ever uttered by any one of the three of us that translated into either of two duties: cleaning the baseboards or cleaning out the bathroom linen closet.  It turned out to be a word rarely voiced in our house growing up because once "it" was said and Mom heard it, there was no taking it back.  She had you at her mercy and even if those baseboards had been cleaned just three hours before, she set you to it and they ran through the entire house.


On the flip side, back in the day… there were plenty of things to do AFTER the garden got weeded, the grass was mowed, and the house was rendered spotless.  We rode our bikes, played card games of Crazy Eights, Rummy, or Double Solitaire.  We would help Mom with whatever puzzle she currently had going on the card table—and bug her until she told us to go away and leave her in peace.  We would set up marathon Monopoly or Life or Sorry or Parcheesi board games in the basement.  We'd play school or reenact our favorite scenes from Star Trek.  We'd have water balloon fights in the back yard.  And if we weren't going camping that summer, at least once a month, Dad would have a campfire in the back yard and we'd cook those hot dogs and toast marshmallows while he told us ghost stories along with all the other kids in the neighborhood.


Often though, a big deal for us was the trip to the library where we would get three or four books to hold us for the month.  It was even better if we saved our allowance and bought the latest lurid Mad Magazine to savor with a bit of a candy stash during "Mom's Saturday-Afternoon QUIET TIME" which meant all the work was done and  but it wasn't time to make dinner yet and she was going to go and READ.  If we were in the house, WE had to READ too—zero options there.  Any noise you made could mean your imminent death.  She wasn't kidding either.  You have to respect a woman and her books.


Without air conditioning, the house could have been an oven but Dad had one of those old fans, those great huge fans that run forever down in the back basement window running.  If you closed certain doors and windows the right way, you could get a great breeze coming through your bedroom windows that helped to cool you down.  We also had those great canvas awnings that let in ALL the good and kept out the heat and the rain.  On a truly potential thundery afternoon, you could enjoy the shift from sultry heat to frontal breezes to downright gusts just before the storm as you watched it build with all the coursetory excitement and ozone buzz—all from the comfort of your bed—with your book; of course.


All in all, we kids didn't miss anything of value by NOT going to the new MALL SCENE every day or every week as was just coming into vogue.  Video games didn't come into our house until I was nearly grown, and then they were of the limited variety—and I won't lie and say that we didn't enjoy them immensely because we did and MOM right there along with us.  I will say that we DID get a pool when I was fifteen—but that was because Mom and Dad finally realized that they wanted one and could enjoy it, especially after we all left the nest.  Even with that view, it was a do-it-yourself kit that took a week to level out the ground, another two-weeks to erect, and nearly another week to fill with our needy, mulish water pump.  That pool stood tall, strong, and then ran for 25 years until the new owners of the house decided they didn't want a pool and tore it down with all that decking.  That pool had seen many a party.  The new owners would never realize they were destroying an icon of our time.  Ah well, some things are still kept best in our memories.


If I had to be really honest, once that pool arrived, the house was never the same.  Like any other house with a pool, everybody in the neighborhood wanted in—and I couldn't blame them.  So, we ended up having lots more company than our parents counted on and they were always gracious hosts.  Besides, they always DID give the best parties with the Tiki torches burning, the barbecue going, loud music, and the food to feed all comers.  Geez, if the neighbors couldn't sleep, they just joined in.


Now I'm the one trying to correlate work and home and fun.  I still view some of the old ways as the best ways for entertainment.  Now the PUZZLES are OUT.  Not that I don't like them, but we've got 4 inquisitive cats in the house and a 2,000 piece puzzle would NEVER get done with them, err, helping.  Cards we already play.  Books we do read.  The back porch we FINALLY have is enjoyed and relished on days when the weather permits. 


Unfortunately, I can't farm my kid out for a week or two at Grandmom's  house in the country where she could ride her bike on dusty, lonely country roads for hours or take the old rowboat out for all day or even walk the old small town without an adult.  Those things I cannot recreate for her.  On the flip side, I wish very much my mother could have lived long enough to have enjoyed email, the internet, bulletin boards, instant access to information on anything anywhere.  She would have embraced this new technology as if she'd been born for it and would have reveled in the freedom and information it provides.  She would never have given up her books or her puzzles, yet she would have made plenty of room for the new age; that was one of the many great things about Mom.  She was always ready to learn new things.


My kid has so much more than we did at her age, but somehow less.  I know it doesn't make sense.  Issues like these never do.  Somehow, it's gonna be a long, long summer.


It's not all the goodies and frills she already has that she takes as her due that I begrudge her, it's the time that I can't give and share with her.  It's the first fish that she catches that I make her clean before sending her directly to the showers.  Then I finish up the desiccation of the poor fish and then try to cook it for her.  It's also the NON-air-conditioned house to learn who to appreciate a cool breeze when it comes and what a storm build on the horizon and hope it comes but being scared spitless that it just might be a really bad one when it does.  It's the freedom of considering 2 ½ months off from school as eternity and not having to think ahead.  It's the freedom not to think about tomorrow but live in the moment of a surprise being gifted with a chilled watermelon and almost being convinced if you eat the seeds you'll grow a watermelon in your stomach.  It's a water balloon fight—until someone grabs the hose and all bets are off and all runs screaming with laughter INTO the water spray on a really HOT and steamy afternoon.


It's even those bad days when nothing turns up right and you fight with your sisters and try to run away from home and all the older kids in the neighborhood (and they are ALL older by more than 2 years other than your middle sister) come out and drag you back before your parents get home and remind you that they'll kill you if you try this again in the pouring rain.  Even after a couple of punches, pulls, and drags, a little kid recognizes fear and worry in older kids.  Somehow that knowledge almost makes the attempt worthwhile—as if said kid just MIGHT be missed. 


The ass-whoopin' that followed by the set of OLDER sisters was staid by the even OLDER male teens in the face of my tears.  They forbade them to hit me for a couple of days.  It didn't matter, they beat the hell out of me once in the house. 


Yep, that's another thing Erin's missing—siblings.  Hey, she's got a choice, a mother or siblings.  It's too late, she's stuck with just me and she knows how to work it so WE get to fight.


So the summer of '04 will be a long one.  I've not the $$ to send her to the mall daily, or build a pool she can float around in, or the ovaries to give her a little brother or sister to abuse.


Yet, somehow with all the family, the goodies in the house, the cool back porch, the new kittens, and all her friends, I think it'll work out. 


Hang in there with me—maybe I'll survive.  Come ON September!  Then we get the HIGH SCHOOL drama.  Does anyone still have some Valium rolling around out there they are willing to share?


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