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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

I just went back to bathe in the golden glow of blogger KerryCan’s early summer memories here. I’ve been planning to take her up on the idea of sharing a childhood summer photo and letting train of thought take over.

KerryCan says she and her cousins had “absolutely nothing to worry about except breaking a plastic flip flop or getting sticky drips of Popsicle running down an arm,” which doesn’t quite fit my childhood. But I was always looking forward and believing something nice was coming.

I began dreaming of Fire Island in January or so — creating a paper pocket on our front door with Ocean Beach postcards tucked in and badgering grown-ups with “When are we going?”

And goodness knows, I dearly loved the ocean, swimming every day in my early teens unless there was a red warning flag. On choppy mornings, I might be the only one out there in front of the lifeguards.

Here I am at about age 10 with the older of my two brothers, probably competing for who could run fastest.

I didn’t learn until I was practically a grandmother that some kinds of competition with him might be ill-advised — like the time I tried to bend back my thumb the way his joints allow him to and ended up with a trigger finger and a hand operation! Ha, ha. Laughing now.

On this Atlantic beach, we used to dig for the tiny armadillo-like mole crabs that we called “jumpies.” Where are they now?

Fire-Island-in-the-50s

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serious-truck-driver

 

Play is important for all kinds of reasons in childhood, including testing out skills and experiencing the satisfaction of creativity.

John Poole at National Public Radio focused on the socialization aspects of play in a recent report.

He began, “Why do we humans like to play so much? Play sports, play tag, play the stock market, play duck, duck, goose? We love it all. And we’re not the only ones. Dogs, cats, bears, even birds seem to like to play. …

“The scientist who has perhaps done more research on brains at play than any other is a man named Jaak Panksepp. And he has developed a pretty good hypothesis.

“In a nutshell, he, and many others, think play is how we social animals learn the rules of being social.  …

“Play seems so deeply wired by evolution into the brains of highly social animals that it might not be a stretch to say that play is crucial to how we and they learn much of what we know that isn’t instinct. …

“Not surprisingly, Panksepp and others think the lack of play is a serious problem. Especially at younger ages. And particularly in school settings. …

” ‘It’s not just superfluous,’ says Panksepp. ‘It’s a very valuable thing for childhood development. And we as a culture have to learn to use it properly and have to make sure our kids get plenty of it.’ ” More here.

More still from Jon Hamilton, another reporter in the NPR series on play, here.

Photo: David Gilkey/NPR
Deion Jefferson, 10, and Samuel Jefferson, 7, take turns climbing and jumping off a stack of old tires at the Berkeley Adventure Playground in California. The playground is a half-acre park with a junkyard feel where kids are encouraged to “play wild.” 

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Art: Cicely Mary Barker (thank you, Lili Matthews, for the correction)

I happened to hear from Hannah this week. We went to the same schools from age 4 through age 13. We’re in touch from time to time but not regularly, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Hannah mentioned she remembered “playing fairies in the wonderful fields behind your house.” Although I don’t have a mental picture of the two of us playing fairies there, I am not surprised to learn we did. Fairies were a big part of my childhood. Even now, I occasionally catch myself wondering if they could be real.

Hannah got me thinking of other imaginative play in childhood: tea parties with cinnamon toast in an attic closet with Carole, the woodland path where Patsy and I walked without speaking because of deep magic, plans with Ursula to perform “Snow White and Rose Red” before the movie at the Lafayette Theater (if only our brothers would cooperate and play their assigned roles), nefarious scheming with the Jukes kids on the roof of a small building, outdoor theatricals with the Cummings kids.

You will say we must not have had television, but in fact we had the first tv in the neighborhood, and kids from all around gathered to watch Disneyland on a tiny black & white screen on Saturdays. And you can bet that whatever magic Walt dreamed up was magic I believed.

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I remember many days with Carole on the playground at recess playing house and gathering “grain,” which we pulled off a common weed and sometimes pretended to eat and sometimes buried — in case we might need extra food someday. Carole was a great kid to play with.

Asakiyume, whom I met in adulthood, is the kind of person I would have wanted to play with in childhood. She has a wild imagination that seems to fire on all burners 24/7. And now that she is old enough to carry out some wishes from age 10 or so, she is going right ahead with them.

For example: acorn cake. At Asakiyume’s blog, followers watched her leach the tannin out of her acorns over a period of days, changing the water repeatedly. We kept tabs as she next roasted the acorns, made acorn flour, and finally baked a cake.

“Today I baked an acorn cake,” she wrote on Nov. 3. “I used my ground-up, leached acorns, and a recipe from Hank Shaw (posted here). The body of this cake is equal parts acorn flour and wheat flour.

“And–it tastes fabulous. It has a flavor like molasses with a hint of ginger, and your tongue tingles a little afterward, like when you eat something peppery. …

“It’s a tiny childhood dream come true–feasting on the abundance of acorns! (Okay, helped by honey, oil, and eggs, not to mention that wheat flour, but still.)”

Read more here.

Photo: Asakiyume
Acorn cake with sugar outlining an oak leaf.

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Author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka knows the power of a kind word. He found his calling largely because of two words from a children’s book author who visited his elementary school class.

And he got through a difficult childhood nourished on the kindness of strangers, including lunch ladies, an unjustly maligned species he has honored in a superhero series. (“Serving justice! And serving lunch!)

Linda Matchan has a lovely story at the Boston Globe about Krosoczka.  (I want to call your attention to how nicely she describes him, here: “with impossibly spiky hair that looks as though he penciled it in himself.”)

“Until recently,” writes Matchan, “Krosoczka was very guarded about his childhood. That changed last October when he got a call from the organizer of a TEDx program at Hampshire College, modeled after the TED Talks series. …

“Scrambling for a topic, his wife urged him to talk candidly about his childhood. With no time to come up with other options, he delivered a moving talk about his early years and the people who inspired and encouraged him. The talk caught the attention of the TED editorial team, which featured it in January on TED.com.

“He spoke in his talk about his mother — ‘the most talented artist I knew’ — who was addicted to heroin and often incarcerated. ‘When your parent is a drug addict it’s kind of like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football … Every time you open your heart, you end up on your back.’ …

“Third grade was the year something ‘monumental’ happened. Children’s book author Jack Gantos came to his school to talk about what he did for a living. He wandered into the classroom where Krosoczka was drawing, stopped at Krosoczka’s desk and studied his picture.

“ ‘Nice cat,’ Gantos said.

“ ‘Two words,’ said Krosoczka, ‘that made a colossal difference in my life.’ ”

More.

Photo: Bill Greene
Jarrett Krosoczka declared May 3 (his favorite lunch lady’s birthday) “School Lunch Superhero Day.”

Author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka knows the power of a kind word. He found his calling largely because of two words from a children’s book author who visited his elementary school class.
And he got through a difficult childhood nourished on the kindness of strangers, including lunch ladies, an unjustly maligned species he has honored in a superhero series. (“Serving justice! And serving lunch!)
Linda Matchan has a lovely story at the Boston Globe about Krosoczka.  (I want to call your attention to how nicely she describes him, here: “with impossibly spiky hair that looks as though he penciled it in himself.”)
“Until recently,” writes Matchan, “Krosoczka was very guarded about his childhood. That changed last October when he got a call from the organizer of a TEDx program at Hampshire College, modeled after the TED Talks series. …
“Scrambling for a topic, his wife urged him to talk candidly about his childhood. With no time to come up with other options, he delivered a moving talk about his early years and the people who inspired and encouraged him. The talk caught the attention of the TED editorial team, which featured it in January on TED.com.
“He spoke in his talk about his mother — ‘the most talented artist I knew’ — who was addicted to heroin and often incarcerated. ‘When your parent is a drug addict it’s kind of like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football … Every time you open your heart, you end up on your back.’ …
“Third grade was the year something ‘monumental’ happened. Children’s book author Jack Gantos came to his school to talk about what he did for a living. He wandered into the classroom where Krosoczka was drawing, stopped at Krosoczka’s desk and studied his picture.
“ ‘Nice cat,’ Gantos said.
“ ‘Two words,’ said Krosoczka, ‘that made a colossal difference in my life.’ ”

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I took a taste of local strawberries, and they brought back the little wild strawberries of my childhood. And how a friend might come over, and I might tell her in whispers that I had found a secret place.

I wouldn’t say where exactly until we got close, and she would have to promise not to tell anyone. Then, checking around that no one was watching, I would lead her into a stand of pine trees and out into a clearing in the middle. And there we would sit down and pick wild strawberries, which are always sweeter than any in the supermarket.

Today I was asking my boss about his vacation with his wife’s family in France. He said his four-year-old had such freedom there to run outside and play with cousins. It reminded him of the freedom of his own childhood, and he thought his daughter was only just now experiencing the way childhood is supposed to be. Where he lives, in the city, his little girl could never just run out  like that.

(If you are interested, here is one of many studies on the importance of nature and play in childhood.)

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I have been reading about Michelle Obama’s latest efforts to encourage good nutrition in childhood.

“Executives from Wal-Mart, Walgreens, SuperValu and other stores joined Michelle Obama at the White House on [July 21] to announce a pledge to open or expand a combined 1,500 stores in communities that have limited access to nutritious food and are designated as ‘food deserts.’

“With the pledges, secured by the Partnership for a Healthier America, which is part of Mrs. Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity, the stores aim to reach 9.5 million of the 23.5 million Americans who live in areas where finding affordable healthy foods can be difficult. In those areas, many people turn to fast food restaurants or convenience stores.” Read the New York Times article here.

On a related note, John sent me a really interesting link from photographer Mark Menjivar, who documents the insides of people’s refrigerators. He includes a one-line insight into the person whose food he is photographing. Unsurprisingly, the fridge with the least food in it belongs to a “street advertiser” who lives on a $432 fixed monthly income.

See the fascinating photo essay here.

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