Vickie and I woke early that Saturday to morning air, freshened by overnight thunderstorms, streaming into our second-floor window. We were sisters just released from a school year and ready for adventure! Cereal with milk, quick change from pajamas to play clothes–and we were off.
Our curiosity about the construction site down the road drew us to an invitingly large mud puddle: moist clay ripe for shaping our 10- and 8-year old imaginations. Most vivid from that day are the clay-formed transportation network we created, and the stick ‘vehicles’ we drove to navigate our network of hills, valleys and bridges, around ‘buildings’ of single rock on the way to important grown-up destinations for great large-world purposes.
Less important to us that morning were: Mom and Dad’s ignorance of our precise whereabouts for a matter of hours; the shout-outs from siblings which we knew required our response; and our intentional ignoring of that requirement since the empty cereal bowls in the sink testified to our fortification—and what else could matter? We played on.
Hours later, satisfied with our adventures in mud and muck, we got hungry for lunch. Time to clean up before going home!
Hoping to avoid the consequences of returning home as a couple of muddy messes (childhood imagination!), we proceeded to “rinse” our hair, hands and arms, legs and feet–don’t forget our clothes–pouring the muddy water over each other just to be sure we got the job done as best we could. Once again enjoying the great and precious puddle of our play, we told each other how good it was that we were cleaning up, gulping back our utter futility in the face of what each other actually looked like! But our faith in the prospect of lunch at home finally got us moving in that direction. Armed with an innocence lacking confidence, and muddied head to foot, body and clothes, we arrived at the back door and called inside. Somehow we knew better than to go inside to announce ourselves.
Following a gasping shriek, Mom expressed her complete irritation with an, “Oh my goodness, what have you done? I don’t know what I’m going to do with you!” Lucky for us, Dad had been a boy as well as a soldier, so he turned to Mom with a chuckle and a “Honey, these two have had the time of their lives!” A few siblings stared in wonder as we were undressed by the door and ushered to the bathtub. We received a thorough scrubbing, a token punishment of being sent-to-our-room, and a seriously extracted pledge to not take off without letting someone know where we are–ever again.
‘Twas the early 1960’s and our family relocated 100 miles away not long after this incident. It would be decades before Vickie and I understood we had created a in our muddy playscape a fractal of what was arising across the world into which we would grow up. This playtime , onstruction site was part of a housing development in our rural Kentucky landscape, an early phase of the rampant sprawl that would turn Kentucky farmlands–and farmlands across the country–into subdivisions. The grown-up works we mimicked in mud, stick and stone that morning would move across the land in large scale, turning our beloved childhood home—old farmhouse it was—into so much in situ landfill. And the freedom to run outdoors and play we held that morning–among many other days–would erode as next generations of children became commuters to and from managed activities.
Oh, and yes, we had lunch!