I find myself to be continually stunned with the lack of imagination in kids these days. I just said kids these days. I have officially become an adult. My parents said this would happen.
I grew up around the advent of Atari, though we had a Coleco Vision. This wasn’t something we had much access to because my dad was the television czar and would kick us off right when we were in the middle of the good part.
We had Mario Brothers, Defender, and the Smurfs. That was the extent of it. Playing video games was a rare privilege, because back in the 80’s we were made to go outside and play. Having an imagination wasn’t an option. If you couldn’t come up with something to do, you’d die of boredom right there in the front yard and no one would care.
“Only boring people get bored”, my mother would say over her shoulder. Touche.
I especially had to develop an imagination because I didn’t have that many kids to play with. There were twin girls my age that lived in the house behind us. Their names were Becky and Peggy, and they single-handedly introduced me to every curse word in the English language. They were mean too.
“Oh, you don’t wanna play? Well fuck you!” they’d yell over the fence, thrusting tiny middle fingers in my direction. Double the pleasure, double the fun.
They said the “p” word. They said the “c” word even. I never really knew what kind of debauchery I would be exposed to with those little bitches so I usually explored other options first.
There were lots of fun things to do around my house for the most part. The kid who lived there before us left all his army men and marbles in the garden. I spent hundreds of hours out there exploring and digging to find the treasures he’d left, not to mention worms, snails, and most importantly doodle bugs. Doodle bugs were my friends and I always envied their ability to roll up in little balls of fuck you anytime they wanted to.
I spent a lot of time in a culvert a few blocks away from my house gathering tadpoles, frogs, and crawdads, while wading waste deep in the green sludge that ran through there after good rains. My sister would collect them in her purse, but I’d use one of my dad’s mesh ball caps because I thought that was way more practical. When I brought my collection back to the house, I’d make tadpole stew and sing Village People songs until my mom yelled at me to come in and eat.
One of the most awesome times I can remember was when my parents got new appliances. The good things that come with a new fridge, washer and dryer were the giant boxes they came in. Oh Holy Mother Mary, a fort!!!
We spent the evening duct taping the boxes together into different rooms, painting the walls with the lovely glow of lightening bug guts, and dragging blankets and pillows out there with the full intention of spending the night in this magical place we’d created in the backyard.
As night set, and my parents had gone in, well, it got a little scary. There were noises that we couldn’t explain, because we were stupid, and so we decided to abandon camp and go in for the night. When we emerged, Becky yelled to us from across the fence.
“Ain’t y’all sleepin’ out there t’night?”
Yep. Those were the days.
These are only a handful of the memories I have in that place where I grew up, where now four other children are doing the same. I regret to inform them that all they’ll find now are the corpses of all the dead animals we buried back there, but hey. Use your imaginations ya shits.
That was a different place and a different time. Yesterday my son was nearly in tears telling me how bored he was.
“Go outside, there are treasures to be found!” I tell him, especially since we have a wooded culvert right behind our house.
“What treasures are there? There aren’t treasures.”
“Sure there are. You just have to use your imagination.”
“OK. I’ll be out there imagining I’m playing video games.”
Yeah. Kids these days.