It is a happy talent to know how to play.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Why should I? You're aiming at me!"
Gabe is in full bike riding regalia after school on Friday. His mom holds her breath as he coasts full steam ahead down the hill to the big house and makes the sharp turn east. He pulls up smartly, in complete control of his vehicle; a big difference from earlier in the week when the offending bike skidded out on the pea gravel and forced medical attention to the guy wearing helmet, shorts...and nike flipflops. This afternoon he bursts in the back door declaring he rode around the farm at least five times and then ran the same route four times. I think he's earned not just supper but a big dessert too! I don't know if there's a reason for all this output of exercise, or if it's just an overflow of youthful exuberance.
When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all. Theodore Roosevelt
All this open space lends itself to nothing so much as unorganized play, spontaneous outbursts of energy, creative destruction at its most obvious, the axiom that one man's trash is a bunch of kids' treasure at its acme. Post election 4x8 signs are wired together with discarded hanging basket wires and chewed off mum leaders to create a hideout. After winter's storms, one wall of the structure is flotsam out in the cornfield and will have to hauled off before planting. The top of the enormous glacial erratic in the backyard has been stage, castle, table, and....most often...a launching pad. The linden tree's low canopy shelters another accumulation of toy leftovers and its multitude of branches allows even the shortest kid a chance to climb a tree. A greenhouse creates enormous amounts of...well, trash. Combine shrink wrap with constant wind and physics will soon yield giant billows of plastic just perfect for small boys to use as parachutes. Potholes grow into puddles with spring rains, irresistible as they are ephemeral. When the adults are clothed in layers of potting soil, the kids figure that mud is a protective coating and they partake generously.
No, this little town won't make the map as a vacation spot with history, or interactive museums, or cannons and forts, but it is big enough to have just about all the things an active and curious and energetic young man might need. And small enough to have the familiarity and security to grow up out of doors, climbing trees or building forts or shooting baskets....
Theodore Roosevelt would surely approve.