By Kayla Ouderkirk
Being back at my Gramma Jo Jo’s house for Thanksgiving, while having distant thoughts of Christmas lingering in the back of my mind, I have this feeling beginning to resurface: a feeling of innocence and freedom, of my carefree childhood.
These smells and sights bring me back to a time when my shirt never matched my pants. When my hair was long and my bangs were cut straight across my forehead. When I would dress up in a cape and run around for hours, refusing to take a nap.
With that in mind, I’d like to reflect on the coolest things to do as a kid. Let’s reminisce for a moment. Stop and think back to those fun-filled times, void of responsibility and expectations. Maybe you can relate to the things that made my childhood.
The most interesting thing to do, obviously, was to make fortresses out of Legos for our Hot Wheels cars to live in. Each car had a different name, and a different job, a different personality entirely. Each house had to be specifically built for that one car, so no two houses were ever the same. Legos equal endless possibilities. To this day, I’ve never read an instruction booklet on how to correctly assemble a spaceship or a castle, but those little blocks were still a great time.
Also, in the summer time, we would venture out into the woods behind Jo Jo’s house with our hand crafted walking sticks. Out past the huge tree fort, you’d find lots of different trails that led out to the best ponds and swampy areas. This was frog hunting season. Now I know it may seem weird and gross to you, but this was really exciting and serious to us. To catch the most frogs was something to be praised. The bigger the better; and the weird looking ones were always a bonus. For example, the one that had leopard skin, the one that were colored brightly with neon or the cute little baby toads were prized.
I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I went out prepared. You need a net. You can’t really bait those little suckers; you just have to be faster than them. Look to the outside edges of the ponds and get your net in-between them and the water. And, you don’t want to ruin your socks by getting a soaker, so be sure to wear some waterproof boots. Last note, don’t step on them. They’re tough to get off your shoes.
Another fun aspect of childhood were the random bursts of hopeful thinking and wavering creativity when we’d try to make new, exciting drinks using really nasty dressings and such. It made me feel like a chef and a chemist; it gave a boost of confidence with the power I possessed. You start with your bases, which for me usually consisted of milk, lemonade, Mellow Yellow, Vernor’s, Amp, or Powerade. Mixing bases was also acceptable. This created new bases like ‘Lemonnors Yellow’ or ‘Mellow Milkade’. Then the fun begins. Anything goes. No limits on quantity or quality. Whatever I could find in that kitchen was fair game for adding flavor to my new creation.
Lastly, I’d like to touch on the fact that playing dress up was also a fun thing to do. It’s not all dresses and frills. You dress how you want, to express yourself. I was kind of a hipster, now that I think about it, in child form. It was often difficult to discern between my everyday clothes and my dress up clothes. Independent thought, away from mainstream preferences. Let’s not forget that playing dress up comes great opportunity to experiment with possible superpowers and unique sets of special-ability-skills. This takes dress up to a whole new level, giving birth to battles and wars among friends. Taking over the monkey bars in the name of whatever made-up country sounded good in that moment. Heart-pounding races to the buried treasure in the sandbox. Casting spells. Making alliances. Throwing rocks. Hiding and sneaking from under the porch. Nobody ever won, and that’s the way it was supposed to be.
That’s what I love most about the holidays. Being around the people that helped shape who you are and how you see the world. Remembering how you stood there over a decade ago, seeing the same things, smelling the same smells, feeling what it felt like, if only for a moment, to be a kid again.