Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Pearl 9: A Skinned Knee Can Be a Good Thing

Dear Eliana and Gehrig,

Good evening, my two gorgeous sweethearts!  Do you miss your Grandpa Jud?  I sure miss you.  It has been almost two whole weeks since I have seen you and it will be a while before we see you again in July.  You will have changed so much by then.

By the time you are old enough to read this you will probably wonder what I mean saying you will have changed so much in just two months, but you are growing and changing so rapidly during this early time of your lives.  When you get older, like me, you look at change from a different perspective.  At our age we can see change in minutes and decades with equal clarity.  For instance, what will life be like for you two when you are 10, 11 and 12 years old?  I know your lives will be completely different than mine was at that age back in the middle to late 1950’s.

Of course, you have to realize we didn’t have computers or video games or even color television (our first color set was purchased in 1959).  We didn’t have shopping malls or megaplex cinema.  We were not allowed to be inside on a summer’s day.  Our mom’s shooed us out of the house early in the morning and we weren’t supposed to come back until dinner time.  Each days activities were a mystery to all of us.  We played war games in the yard.  We built a tree fort and defended it against foes, both real and imagined.  We had BB gun fights and, despite our parent’s warnings of lost eyesight, never a casualty was recorded. Fighting the battle of boredom and winning.  Imagine that. 

We hiked up to “Twin Peaks” in the California foothills, an almost two hour trek, and shared a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a warm Coke we had carefully packed in a brown paper sack and were kings of all we surveyed from our lofty perch.  We dug a cave into the side of a dirt hill in a small forest area behind the Junior High School.  It was cut back into the hill ten or more feet.  There was probably several tons of dirt which could have buried us alive at any moment but we spent hours in that cool place on hot summer days contemplating life.

We rode our bikes about 10 miles up to Puddingstone Dam with our fishing poles and caught tiny button-back perch on worms we dug out of the ground in my Dad’s flowerbeds.  We dashed ourselves to the ground for hours on our Slip ‘N Slide in the front yard and ran through the sprinklers.  When we were thirsty, we drank out of the water hose if Mom ran out of Kool Aid.  We played in “The Wash”, a man-made drainage sewer channel which carried the effluent from the local paper mill to the ocean and when it flooded after a heavy rain, we would swim in the ponds it created.

After dinner we were back outside in the last few hours of daylight and organized neighborhood games of Hide and Seek, Ring Around the Rosie, Kickball, Red Rover and, my personal favorite, Kick the Can.  Sometimes we would just lie on the cool grass and watch the girls play Hop Scotch and Jump Rope on the sidewalk until our parents stuck their heads out the door and yelled for us to come inside.  Where did the day go? 

Now, some of the things we did, like riding on our bikes with a friend sitting between the handlebars, were dangerous.  We fashioned homemade slingshots and plinked at cans and each other while climbing the trash piles down at the junk yard.  We climbed trees, wondered construction sites after the workers left and occasionally got into trouble. We took a lot of risks and there were opportunities to get hurt.  But, for all the crazy stunts we pulled, no one ended up with more than a skinned knee.  We were happy and healthy, got plenty of exercise and it was all interactive play which built social skills and camaraderie.  Don’t think you can get that from an X-Box.  Which kind of brings me to my next pearl.

Ninth Pearl:  A Skinned Knee Can Be a Good Thing

Parents today tend to over-schedule and over-protect their children.  Certainly we want you two to be safe.  We would never want you to be injured in any serious way.  But helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and tethers to ride a BIKE?  What’s next?  “Oh, honey, be sure to put on your helmet if you are going to open that can of tuna.  Watch out for the squirt”.  Skin that knee a couple of times and you will learn how to prevent the casual accident pretty darn quick.  I know.  I could spell Mercurochrome before I was six.

We do live in a more complicated time.  In the 1950’s children did not seem to be at the same level of risk they are today from external threats.  Our parents did not know where we were during those summer days or what we were doing.  Parents today can not be that cavalier.  But I hope your parents will allow you both the freedom to be yourselves.  Let boys be boys and girls be girls.  I hope you will take that opportunity of freedom and use your youth to discover yourselves; your skills, your limits, your potential. For every skinned knee, you will have learned a valuable lesson.  And Mom will always be there to kiss it and make it better.

I love you both so much.  I will write you again before I see you in July.  In the meantime, try sleeping through the night.  You will find it will be good for you and do wonders for your Mom.

God’s Blessings on my Sweethearts.

Grandpa Jud

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