“Turn off the TV and find something else to do!” My mother turned the corner from the living room into the dining room; she carried a basket of clean laundry. I got up from the living room floor to follow and watched as she unfolded the ironing board. “Davey wanted to watch TV!” I attempted to justify, but the words came out overly whiney. Davey looked surprised at my mention of his name, and moved slightly to stay out of view. “Well then he can go back to his house to watch TV; you’re not going to just lie there watching TV all day…there are more things to do with your lives!” “Not today…it’s raining out!”…I responded with a prepared second line of defense, all the while moving confidently back down to my position in front of the TV. As we waited for my mom’s next move, we were outflanked by my dad, who entered the room from the hallway, stepped over me, and turned off the TV. “Listen to your mother…Hi Davey!” Davey had rolled himself up into a defensive ball in the far corner. “Oh…Hi” came his muffled response.
I grudgingly got up from the floor and walked into the foyer to peer out through the storm door. The pitter-patter of rain on the walkway was interrupted by the sound of distant thunder. In my mind’s eye, I traveled to the homes of my other neighborhood friends whose mothers, as I expected, were doting over their kids rainy day well-being; a uniform chorus of maternal wisdom echoed in my head… “Well, you’re not going out in that today! You just lie yourself down and watch TV for the rest of the day!…Let me know when you want lunch dear…” A loud clap of thunder brought me back to reality. My mom continued to iron my clothes in the dining room.
“What does she think we can do on a day like this?,” I mumbled to myself. Davey drew up next to me at the door…“I really don’t want to go home…my mom will make me clean my room.” Ignoring the fact that Davey’s statement was inconsistent with my theory that life was always better everywhere else, I took him to task that my mom remained in earshot of his mother’s “rainy-day-to-do” options! “Let’s go check out the games in the den closet.”
As I opened the closet door, several items fell from the overstuffed shelves. I picked up one of the items…my GI Joe Talking Astronaut…and pulled on the dog tag chord. “Confirm second stage ignition…entering lunar orbit!” “Heh…heh…GI Joe is cool!” A small, blue flowered print luggage had also fallen causing the lock to snap open and spill its Barbie clothes contents onto the floor. “Hey Davey, remember when we used your sister’s Barbie as the guinea pig to test out our homemade GI Joe parachutes?…We kept tossing her out your bedroom window until we got it right…boy was your sister mad!” As I put Joe back in his place of honor on the top shelf, I kicked the Barbie clothes and luggage back into the closet, next to the Bag-Of-Blocks and eyed the stacks of games, which were organized by box size: Parcheesi, Candy Land, Go To The Head of the Class, Chutes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers, Hands Down, Mouse Trap, Operation, Bingo-matic, and Game of the States. “No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No , No and No.” I thought to myself that all the good rainy day games like Yahtzee and Monopoly must be locked in the camping trailer.
The next shelf, labeled “rainy day” (by an adult), was filled with crafty things like paint-by-number, chalk, colored pencils, and a wood burning set. We ignored it and focused on the lower shelf. The lower shelf was full of electronic games and activities: Creepy Crawlers Thing Maker, Easy Bake Oven, and electronic football. Davey and I looked at each other and, without discussion, I grabbed the electronic football game.
“I call offense” I yelled as I opened the box and removed the metal field and bags of yellow and white plastic players. We started to set up the players before realizing we had to move closer to an outlet to get power. Over the next ten minutes, not a word was spoken as we dreamed up highly technical offensive and defensive formations. After several minutes of adjusting and readjusting plastic figurines around the field, we were ready for the kickoff. We simulated crowd noises and did a ceremonial kick of the football. I placed the sliver of a sponge, which represented the “pig skin,” under one of the players arms and put him down in the backfield. “Ready Davey?” As Davey nodded with excitement, I toggled the “on switch” and the field immediately came to resounding life; the noise and vibration adding to the fervor. We watch with intensity as these polyethylene masters of the gridiron rushed toward each other with equal goals of electricity-driven annihilation!
We hovered over the field as the opposing players collided; we made crashing and crushing sounds to accompany the anticipated battle playing out below.
In seconds, Davey and I realized our respective strategies were for naught. No battle to the death would play out on this day. Players coalesced regardless of color into a singular mass of plastic, which migrated without fanfare toward a neutral side of the field. We watched hopelessly as the figurines continued to stack up, with neither intent nor purpose. We watched until our attention was refocused on two rogue players, arms hooked, who had taken up a perpetual do-si-do at the 30-yard line. It was then that the vibration emanating from the metal gridiron transitioned into an acoustical annoyance. We longed for silence and obtained it through the single toggle of a switch. Two players stood frozen in defeat…until they walked out of the room.
“Lets go bowling!” Rainy days brought out the inventive nature of baby boomer adolescence. The idea of repurposing materials was passed down to our generation from our grandparents, who reused, recycled and repurposed out of necessity during the Great Depression and WWII. I opened the cellar door to find my mom carting another load of laundry up the stairs. With four kids, my mom was in a perpetual loop of collecting, washing, drying, ironing and putting away clothes. “Is your room clean?” she asked. I looked back at Davey with a slight air of contempt. Ignoring the question, I responded “We’re going bowling.” We let her pass and then took our turn on down the stairs. “OK, but clean-up after you’re done!” she responded casually, as she kicked the door closed behind us.
We passed the ping-pong table and moved toward the washer and dryer on the far wall. “Hey, turn on some of those other lights,” I directed Davey as I started pulling on the overhead chains to turn on lights near the washer. Out of the darkness, an ocean of empty plastic laundry detergent and bleach bottles came into focus. Without additional direction, Davey collected 10 of the bleach bottles and set them up in a 10-pin bowling configuration. I collected the black plastic ball from the shelf. “You go first this time.” I offered. “Same rules…no handicap…first one to roll a 300-game wins.” I tossed the ball to Davey who stepped back behind the black tape laid down on the basement floor, approximately 30-feet from the front pin. With the ball in hand, he charged the line at which point he sent the ball spinning toward the awaiting bleach bottle pins. A crack of thunder outside worked in concert with the sound of the ball smacking into the “pins,” which sprayed outward leaving no pin standing. Without comment, we collected the ball and stood up the pins to repeat the process. Life was good, even on this rainy day!