95. Playing

When I was in second grade, after school, I went home. So did most of my friends. We played. One time, we put together a pet show. I didn’t bring Chipper, my dog, because he was just a regular dog, and didn’t know any tricks. It wasn’t his fault; we didn’t teach him any. I brought a weird-looking worm to try for the “Weirdest Pet” prize. Another time, we did a Three Stooges show. I never watched the Three Stooges, but my friends did. We found little pebbles, and we put them in our mouths so that when we pretended to hit each other on the head, it looked like we were spitting out our teeth. And of course, we played war. I don’t mean the card game; I mean real John Wayne-type war. I wasn’t a pacifist till later.
David Newman, who lived way across Jericho Turnpike so I couldn’t play with him much anyway, took piano lessons and was on a little league team. He could play piano like a real piano player. My dream was to some day take piano lessons and be as good as David Newman. As for little league, who needed it? We played baseball any time we felt like it, and once in a while, we even played against David’s team. We never won, but sometimes we got some runs. Glen usually got a home run, and once, on a really windy day, I walloped that ball into the potato field near Oakwood School, and got a home run. I’ve liked windy days ever since.
So what’s my point? My point is, the free time I had then, like the free time I have now, was the stuff the good life is made of. Later, I did take piano lessons, and as soon as I realized that I didn’t want to practice enough to play like David Newman, I stopped taking lessons. For a while, I took voice lessons instead, but only until I lost interest. And I was never on an organized little league team, so no adults were yelling at me to choke up, keep my eye on the ball, etc. I was free to be a child.
This sounds like pure nostalgia now. But I challenge the givers and takers of lessons and the coaches and parents of teams to find a day when they can all agree to offer nothing, so children can go home and play. And teachers shouldn’t give homework on that day, either. Imagine a child coming home on, say, Tuesday, and thinking, “Let’s see…who should I play with today? Or should I just go down to the brook and watch dragonflies?”

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