Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Tonka Syndrome
No matter what your mans age, if he is still playing that is a good thing. It is when the play stops that you need to worry.
A grown ups toys could be any number of neat things. A supped up lawn tractor, or a 1993 pimped out Land Rover are great toys. Power tools are also cool. All of them. Every blessed tool that you can plug in, or run on an 18 volt battery, is great. Doesn't matter if you don't know what the heck it is for, or if you don't have a reason to own it. The thing is, you have it. Just in case you need to rout a counter top, or drill some concrete, or plane some exotic hardwoods. No need to worry, mate, you're all set.
Sporting goods are fantastic toys. Boats are good. Fishing boats, little john boats, canoes, kayaks, ski boats, personal watercraft, pontoon boats, cabin cruisers. Yachts are great. Fishing gear is essential. Fly fishing, salt water, fresh water and surf fishing equipment are toys that never grow old. Hunting dogs, a 12 gauge, and some deer scent can take care of a lot of cravings come fall.
See, it doesn't matter just what the toy is, it is the actual act of play that is important. Play is the heads way to decompress, to let go of all those things that clutter our thoughts and everyday actions. It is necessary. A requirement to keep ourselves free from cynicism. Children know this. No one teaches a child how to play. They discover the benefits themselves. No matter if you empty the ailes of Toys R Us on them, or just give them some pots and wooden spoons on the kitchen floor, they will still play. The more play we encourage, the more we inspire them to use their imagination, and the less rambunctious they are.
Like anything else, it must be inspired early on. Soon play becomes the outlet it is supposed to be. Playing alone is fine. Sitting on the carpet with a bunch of half dressed Barbies with mismatched shoes, or dozens of plastic soldiers marching across the coffee table will keep a child's head head active for hours. The results can be seen, and felt by those around them.
When I was nine my mother died suddenly a week to the day before the President was shot. It was a difficult time for us. During the days, and weeks that followed, the relatives came to our house to help my step-dad sort things out. Clean things out. It was during this time that many of the toys that I had grown to love and rely on disappeared. I don't think it was ever a vindictive thing, just a helpful "loose the clutter" thing. Problem was, I wasn't done playing.
For many years I thought of those lost companions. Looking back, I know therapy would have been a good thing. They were like friends that had moved away from the neighborhood and I had never been given the opportunity to say goodbye. In 1998 I discovered Ebay. I plugged in some search parameters and found the fire truck that I missed the most. A 1954 Tonka Fire Truck. All metal with real rubber hoses, and a working fire hydrant that you could actually connect to a garden hose to make the hoses spray water. I never knew who made that truck, all I remember was that I loved it, and it was gone. I bid on that firetruck, and won.
Soon, all the toys that could remember having as a child I found, and bid on. I didn't buy them all, but very close to it. Soon the curio cabinet in my family room was filled with bits of my childhood.
As I took each new purchase from the box, and unwrapped the bubble wrap, my hands would hold it as they had years ago. That familiar feeling of just how that toy felt, where to move my fingers came flooding back and shot through the nerves to my head. Each time it happened, a sense of relief came over me. An unseen weight was lifted.
Sounds silly. I realize that, but once I had accumulated the dozens of toys that most stood out in my head, and they were mine, it was if I could have a real do-over. I could start where I left off. All I needed to do was to finish the play. How this helped the head of a middle aged man is beyond me, but it did. Immensely. I was finally able to put those feelings away, and after I had experienced the toys again, they were placed prominently in the curio--my toy box.
Despite not having those special toys, I never did stop playing. I found new things, new ways to occupy myself, to free my head from those everyday things that clog up ones thoughts. It worked when I needed it too, and still does today. Always on an adventure, goofing off, and not taking myself, or life too seriously, that the way I was, and still am.
Play is important. Whether it be fishing, four wheeling, scrap booking, gardening, or even tossing a blanket over the dining room chairs to build a fort for you and your kids. If you enjoy it, do it. If you consider yourself too much of a grown up to do it, then get over it. Find something. Once your partner sees the changes that occur subtlety, they will encourage you, and may even join you.
Even at our age, a playmate is still one of the best things we can have. Someone to share times away from bills, challenges, problems with the neighbors, politics, and work. Grab that playmate, and go for a hike, or crack open the Yahtzee on a rainy Sunday. You will be amazed how you feel afterwards.
One word of caution. Play is addicting. It is supposed to be, but it is an addiction that will never require 12 steps to walk away from.