You know the kid who has all the newest toys that the manufacturers have to offer, but prefers playing in a big box?
I am reminded of that kid when I watch my dog go for the pine cone as if it is the most treasured prize in the world--yes, he likes tennis balls, has filled my car with six of them, but in lieu of the ball, the pine cone that fits perfectly in the front of his mug creates a joyful jump, a focused sit, and racing across the trail kicking up dust storms. Brewster is not a high maintenance dog, in fact, all he wants to do is run--around, wrestling, but most importantly run after pine cones.
My dog is a link in the legacy that springs from my childhood. We were not kids with toys. Someone gifted us an occasional doll, my brothers had those little green army men, board games were shared by adults and children and had missing pieces. Doll Houses, toy guns and Barbies filled the neighbors' kids rooms, but not ours. We were six siblings--getting one a toy would mean getting six a toy. Not likely. What we had, we shared--one bike, a pair of roller skates (we wore one at a time) and an old scooter and wagon. Playing was a negotiation--who got to wear the skate, the other one; who rode the wagon, who pulled it. The sidewalk in front of our house was a circus of kids riding back and forth, pushing one skate along the slate, and the clothesline jump rope that stung when we snapped it accidentally against our legs.
We didn't have to go far to find other toys. We had a big back yard and tons of selvage. One of the best playgrounds around. Our toy guns were two stick clothespins stuck together--bang bang. A can that once held evaporated milk, was stripped, crushed and dropped into our kick-the-can rumble on the side hill with the big slope. The same grassy knoll we threw ourselves down in a giddy roll. Where we played statues and ghost in the graveyard.
To make bubbles mother gave us a handful of laundry detergent that we mixed with water in an old bowl. Without the bubble wand, we had to scour around for the bubble maker. Under the house we found short rusty pipes, with a penny diameter opening. We placed one end of the pipe into the mixture until the suds stuck; then we put the other end between our lips and blew long zucchini shaped soap balloons. Highly toxic but satisfying.
We invented running games, parking meter games, yard competitions. Singing, yelling, and fighting. We didn't need the boxing robots or race cars (although, believe me, we wanted them).
While Brewster holds the genetic disposition toward simplicity and invention, I wish i could say these humble beginnings taught me about ingenuity, simplicity, low impact living. Oh I started my writer life out with well chosen journals and expertly selected pens, dabbled with leaky fountain pens for a while. I wrote lines of poetry in notebooks of various colors, arty pictures and clever sayings. But truth be told, i like speed.
And light. In college, I earned a Smith-Corona typewriter with a manual return. All my papers were typed while others still hand wrote theirs (yes that long ago). Completely addicted to how fast my fingers could transfer my thoughts to paper (and I could decipher it), I moved through the ranks throughout the years. Various typewriters with balls and wheels; computers with heavy green screens, then sleeker monitors, laptops, notebooks and yes, the I Pad. Years of writer equal years of e-waste. And i promise myself every time something fantastic lands on the market, i won't get it...I'll make do with the tools I have. But then there's the phone with the qwerty keyboard and the netbook. I am a long way from the clothespin gun.
My heart does take me back to stationary stores all the time where i scratch sample ink renderings on little pads to have just the right pen stroke. After all folks still buy me lovely journals with hand made paper and gems embedded in the cover. There's a very special shelf for them in my office. It's a museum of artifacts, the tools of the writers one sees in movies who takes her journal to a lake side and looks whimsically out to the water.
I do know that admirable and hearty books have been written by hand and still are. Song of Solomon, hear tell, was composed on yellow legal pad as Toni Morrison rode the F train home to Queens from Manhattan. But I am stuck. Stuck with the glow of the screen, the appearance of each letter in perfect uniformity, the easy transfer from my head to the text. Maybe too easy, since rewriting is constantly required (and often by pen).
As I write this Brewster has thrown himself across my lap and has fallen asleep. He is exhausted from pine cone chasing up at Skyline Gate.
Right beside his ear is my laptop and my fingers hitting the keys. A sound he's used to, the sound of me, working.
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