Thursday, February 3, 2011

Simple Pleasures

I was reminded of the joys of metal bottle caps today and it got me reminiscing. A slightly older kid in the projects showed me how to melt old fishing weights in them with matches to make a pretty nifty substitute for marbles. I think his name was Steve. In a pinch you could use old crayon bits, but lead really gave heft to the thing and made it worth much more in trade. He also showed me how to squash a coin by laying it on a train track, but we won’t go there. He also showed me how he cut a hole in a wire fence and jumped from the second story balcony onto the playground below and how he sharpened a penny edge on the pavement to make a weapon. We definitely won’t go there.

If I recall he was suspended a couple times from school.

If you built a scooter out of wood crates (a la Bill Cosby fame), it was considered over the top wonderful to plaster the thing with bottle caps of all kinds. It didn’t help the aerodynamics much but it was cool to look at. By the way, we didn’t use buggy wheels, but took apart keyed on skates, (before your time, I know), and attached the front part to the front and the other to the back. It took something to maneuver, but what’s a challenge like that to a kid?

When it rained in summer we’d race popsicle sticks in the gutters. Or get soaked to the skin and look for rainbows after. Or squish mud between our toes on the well worn grassless places. Or open our mouths to let the drops fall in. Slightly warm and tasting like dirt.

The Mr. Frostee truck wailed it’s siren tune at the base of our hill on summer afternoons, and kids thundered down the fire escape stairs hollering “the ice cream truck is here!”, coins gripped tightly, to queue up in front of the window. It was always so hard to decide. And with the line behind you, you had to think quickly.

Fall meant leaf piles. Hopscotch and Spring were standard on the school playground. I was never good at Double Dutch. But let me tell you, never, ever play Dodge Ball with boys. They aim to kill.

Behind the bushes near Carmella’s grocery store, people tossed bottles. You got a two cent return on the small ones and five cents on the big. That was the day when kites were fifteen cents, a roll of string was a dime and one brand of chocolate bar was still three cents. Like I said we lived at the top of a hill so the winds would tuck under those things as you ran down it and float into the sky.

Winters had their own joys. Snowball forts and fights. I was really good at making fast round snowballs but had no oomph to my throw, so got clobbered more often than not. Sliding the slopes on large sheets of cardboard. Snowmen. Tromping the ground to write words. Opening your mouth to let snowflakes melt on your tongue. Hot cocoa with marshmallows at home while your clothes dried out draped over chairs near the heat. It was also drawing and creating time, laying out art supplies and taking over the dining room table.

All this fun without batteries. And you, my dear second born, surrounded by electronics, and books, and videos, tell me you’re bored?

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