Remember Your Imagination?
As part of my sheltering-in-place regimen I purchased a “tennis trainer” --- a plastic base you fill with water that has a long elastic band and a tethered tennis ball attached. Pretty simple device, really. You hit the ball, it flies off in the distance, bounces, and comes back to you --- so you can hit it again. Beautiful in its simplicity and it actually provides a good workout --- allowing me to keep my groundstrokes in relatively decent shape. I practice on tennis courts here at Winnipauk Village (our condo complex) that are in sad disrepair --- neglected for years (as you can see in the photos below). Nonetheless, one is level enough and still has visible lines delineating a tennis court so hitting the “tennis trainer” ball has a certain air of authenticity (you can try to control/aim your shots based on the lines on the court). Since our isolation, I’ve been going out and hitting the ball between 30 and 40 minutes each day, just to get some exercise and try to keep my tennis game “ready” for our re-entry to a world where we can actually go to parks and play sports and games again.
The other day, as I was hitting the ball, I decided to create a “game,” where I would “keep score” --- so I could play a “set” of tennis against myself. I won’t bore you with the “rules” I devised because that’s not the focus here. What I realized was that, in creating my “game,” I was simply doing something most of us did when we were kids. In my case ---- and I know I wasn’t alone in this --- it was often on a basketball court by myself. Dribbling toward the basket from mid-court I’d “announce” the action: “Cousy brings the ball down court. He dribbles left and then goes behind his back, cutting to the foul line. The clock is counting down --- five, four, three --- he pulls up and shoots --- two, one!” And you either “won” the game at the buzzer, or lost, which would lead to: “So the game is tied at the end of regulation time and the teams will have to go to overtime,” or “Cousy was fouled! He’ll have to go to the free-throw line to tie or win the game.” Either way, you continued your “game,” announcing more play-by-play as you worked on developing your skills. If you had a “pitch-back” net or a stoop and a pink Spaulding (“spal-deen”) ball you created any variety of “baseball” games. My brother and I had an old tire hanging on our clothesline in the backyard and would fire passes through it, when we weren’t running routes and beating imaginary “defenders” in that same back yard, always using our imaginations.
The point here is simple: children use their imaginations all the time. Somewhere by the middle of elementary school --- or certainly by the onset of Middle School ---kids are discouraged from the kind of imaginary thinking that is second nature to us when we are young (the Lovely Carol Marie’s 4-plus year-old granddaughter regularly plays “Teacher” by herself --- with a classroom full of Barbies!). I continued to “play basketball” by myself right up through my high school years (and maybe later) but it was only the other day, alone on that decrepit court, that I really began to engage my imagination in the way I did as a boy --- and I think it may be something that is really useful in our current situation. This is not a new idea, of course, and I’ll simply turn the remainder of this BLAST over to a couple of poets: Robert Louis Stevenson (A Child’s Garden of Verses) and Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends).
· The Unseen Playmate
· Robert Louis Stevenson
When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.
Nobody heard him, and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw,
But he’s sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.
He lies in the laurels, he runs on the grass,
He sings when you tinkle the musical glass;
Whene’er you are happy and cannot tell why,
The Friend of the Children is sure to be by!
He loves to be little, he hates to be big,
‘Tis he that inhabits the caves that you dig;
‘Tis he when you play with your soldiers of tin
That sides with the Frenchmen and never can win.
‘Tis he, when at night you go off to your bed,
Bids you go to sleep and not trouble your head;
For wherever they’re lying, in cupboard or shelf,
‘Tis he will take care of your playthings himself!
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
Stay home. Stay Safe. Wash your Hands. Use Your Imagination.