I recently remembered some things from my childhood that I never realized I forgot. No, they weren’t horrendous repressed memories (as far as I know, I don’t have any of those). They were of quiet, happy, simpler times, when I didn’t require fancy toys with bells and whistles to keep me cheerfully occupied for hours on end.
Not a single one of these things was heavily influenced by television or marketing strategies or contemporary children’s characters. Instead, they relied on creativity and imagination, and for that, I’m grateful. The following are some of my “forgotten treasures.”
- Picking hazelnuts. (How could I forget such a painful activity?) My siblings and I used to spend hours at our camp in LacLaBelle collecting hazelnuts and bringing them back in plastic grocery bags. Good to eat, they were also very tricky because of the poky fuzz on the exterior of the shell. I remember trying to delicately handle the nuts with my fingernails, but that never quite did the trick. I used to have invisible slivers for days afterwards. But it was always worth it.
- Looking through wallpaper sampler books. We used to get two inch thick books filled with colorful patterns of wallpaper. There were the simple classics with muted colors and small dots, the more wild ones with big bright flowers, and the childish ones with animal and nature shapes. (Do these things still exist? I haven’t seen one in years!) My older sister and I would spend hours looking through them, imagining decorating our bedrooms with our favorite prints. I remember trying to pair together wallpapers that I thought looked good together. (I shudder now to think what my imagined decorating schemes looked like.)
- The button tin. My mom had a fancy round silver tin, about eight inches in diameter and four inches tall, that used to be filled with buttons of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They were shiny, dull, patterned, smooth, two-holed, four-holed, and some with only one hole, ridged, speckled, flat, round, fancy, and plain. One of my favorite things to do was grab handfuls of buttons and let them slide through my fingers back into the tin. Does life get any simpler than that? For a little added challenge, I would sort them into innumerable categories that only I could decipher. I used the button tin once for a sewing project. My flashy tie-died button-down shirt was missing the third button from the top. Instead of finding a matching button of pearly white (which I’m sure was in there), I decided to use a big black button. Simple minds, simple pleasures. I thought it would look classy.
- Constructing toothpick buildings. I understand engineering students still do this for contests in school: build a structure that can hold X amount of weight. But these were no carefully thought out architectural wonders. My siblings and I would each take a piece of cardboard and squirt a puddle of Elmer’s glue onto one corner. Then we would dump a box of flat toothpicks out onto the table, coat the ends of the toothpicks with glue, and go to town. Our finished compilations usually at least stayed together, but there is no way they would have held up to any kind of pressure. (Come to think of it, they may have benefited from a little wallpaper!)
- The lock box. Our lock boxes were given to us by our grandparents on our fifth birthdays. They were homemade heavy duty wooden boxes about 2 ft. long by 1.5 ft. wide by 1 ft. deep. They came with a hinged lid and a lock. That was the best part. We could put anything we wanted inside and lock it up so no one else could get in and take our stuff. We got to paint and decorate them however we wanted, which usually involved putting our names on them in very large letters (to dispel any doubt). And no, I’m not telling what I kept in my lock box.
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