Creating more Playborhoods

playInspired by this article of the Playborhood concept for kids and neighborhoods, I am reminded of my own experience when I was a kid, growing up in Clifton, NJ, a suburb of Manhattan.

After school was spent over my friends’ house, 3 brothers: Mike, Daniel and Jeremy.  Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lee had devoted themselves to their children and creating an environment both inside and outside their home where their children and their friends could learn, discover and play.  They were teachers by profession and their love of children was palpable.

In their backyard, Mr. Lee had build a wooden fort, with a ladder to climb u to the top and in the ‘basement’ of the fort was a sandbox.

I remember spending hours in that sandbox in the summer, using a colander to sift the sand to make it as fine a powder as I possibly could.  I was and am always fascinated with texture, nature and the earth.

The brothers would join me for awhile, but they were more interested in climbing up and on the fort, or playing on the swingset nearby.

In the humid heat of a NJ summer, their outdoor pool was also a soothing retreat.

But it wasn’t just their backyard that was a playground on my street, our street itself, St. James Place, also became our world to kick ball, pop tar bubbles in the summer heat or roller skate down.

There were no ‘scheduled’ playdates, they just happened, after school or on the weekend.  We were pretty much left to our own devices.  Our parents would call us in for meals and such and of course, when it got dark, we were expected to be home.

But we had freedom to discover ourselves through play.

In the cooler months, we retreated inside their home to the basement rec room.  There were legos, building blocks, Lincoln logs and in the back room, Mr. Lee had set up his model railroad.

There was also an Apple computer with very early ‘video games’.  There was a haunted house game we would play, but the computer wasn’t the sole focus of what we did.  And of course, these were different times.  We weren’t hooked in to the internet.

It was more fun to create our own worlds with the other toys that we could get our hands on.

I am really grateful for that experience.  I wonder, those reading this, did you have a Playborhood growing up?


Ride the carousel!

Last night was a drippy, rainy evening in Seattle.  I drove down to the waterfront to go to a dance hall but try as I might, I couldn’t find it.

I kept walking up and down the sidewalk, retracing my steps, certain I was in the right area and then thought, maybe it had closed?!  I was sopping wet by then (because of course, living in Seattle, I never carry an umbrella).

After about a half hour of trying to find the hall, I needed to get out of the rain.  I found myself at the game  arcade and carousel (that was still open and very empty of customers).  I had never been in there all the years of living in this town.  It’s where tourists went, not residents…

The clerk behind the counter looked bored that no one was coming in  that night (and probably waiting to go home).  So, spontaneously, I asked her, ‘Can I ride the carousel?’.  She looked amused, this grown, rain-soaked woman wanting a ride on the merry-go-round at 8:30 at night.

But, she said it was still open.  So, I paid my $1.50 and climbed on board.  The clerk even rang the bell for me.  And of course, I had to take a picture to document the experience.  After I did that, I put my phone away and just enjoyed the ride, and reminded myself of the times when I was a kid and we didn’t take photos of everything, we didn’t have to capture the moment ‘permanently’, we lived in the moment.  For the next several minutes I gave myself permission to live in the moment, watching the arcade spin around me, seeing Puget Sound through the windows of the hall, listening to the Carney music…

And then, the carousel started slowing down, coming to an end.  I got off and thanked the clerk who looked genuinely happy I had yielded over to my child-self.  Well, that’s my perspective.  I think the clerk was happy to witness a grown woman having fun before she closed for the night.

Walking back out into the rain, I could feel an inner warmth.  That was fun!  Even though I couldn’t find the dance hall I was looking for, I found a bit of joy spurred on by the magic of the merry-go-round.  And in the process, came back into the moment.

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