Who Needs Toys?

This isn’t a column about how unhappy I am that daughter Leigh and her family have moved 2,500 miles away. It isn’t a column about how much easier and cheaper it was to drive to Kentucky than it is to fly to California. It isn’t a column about how I wish they would flee the land of drought and wildfires and mudslides and come back to where it’s wet and green.

Nope. This is a column about toys.

On a sweltering morning last July, I was put in charge of Eli (age five) and June (almost four) after their parents packed up the family’s belongings, including every toy and every book, and loaded them into a “pod” that would be trucked to the west coast. The three of us pondered what we might do for fun in their empty house in Danville. The kids suggested watching Peppa Pig on my cell phone. I said no.

Before temperatures became unbearably hot, we walked to the old Centre College soccer field and watched gigantic excavators and bulldozers move tons of dirt in preparation for new campus construction. When thirst overtook us, we went back to the house and held our mouths under the kitchen spigot to drink. I dragged myself upstairs to pack my suitcase while the kids squatted on top of the air grate in the front hall trying to cool off. Soon, I heard them laughing and peeped around the corner to see why.

June had taken off one of her shoes and was standing on the staircase landing, leaning over the rail. She dropped the shoe to Eli, who was looking up at her from the first floor, his hands positioned for the catch. When he missed, he returned the shoe to June. When he caught it, they changed places.

They played that game for fifteen or twenty minutes. When they finally grew tired of it and wanted something new to do, I fetched a cup filled with coins from the console of my car and suggested money games. We talked about what each coin was called and how many cents it was worth. We put together a dollar’s worth of quarters, a dollar’s worth of dimes and a dollar’s worth of nickels, but didn’t have quite enough pennies for a dollar. While putting the coins away, we hit the jackpot—a tennis ball hiding under the back seat. We headed across campus to the building that houses food services. No one was around and the dining room was locked up tight, but the long hall in front of it was accessible. Best of all, it was air conditioned. We bounced and rolled and chased that tennis ball for almost an hour. And laughed and laughed and laughed.

Which all goes to show that, despite what Christmas ads try to make us believe, kids don’t need a lot of toys to have a real good time.

(December 9, 2018)