The Thinking 

One Child’s Universe

October 16, 2010


LAWRENCE AUSTER writes in response to previous posts, which can be found here, here and here, on the subject of childhood play:

My main toy in my childhood was a set of toy rubber soldiers. There were maybe 50 or 60 soldiers, contained in a round metal tin, enough for entire battles. There was one soldier in the set who unlike the others was not in a fixed position holding a gun, but was standing in a dynamic position, looking like he could be running, or leaping, or climbing, so he became the main character and hero of my various battle pieces. Sometimes he would serve as a Batman-like hero. I would make a paper plane with a string suspended below it, and attach the toy soldier to it, and he would fly with this paper airplane from his headquarters out to battle criminals. 

Another main toy was a set of bricks, with which a friend and I constructed various edifices, particularly an Egyptian tomb. We would designate the toy soldier a pharaoh, whom we named Ralph, and hide him in the tomb, and then we would become archaeologists and dig him out. 

Then there was an erector set, and a plastic submachine gun. Then there were the woods behind our house and a golf course on the other side of the woods. I spent much of my childhood in those woods. We thought that if the golfers caught us they would take us to a barn on the golf course and torture us, so we were always very afraid of being caught. Or we imagined that the golfers were Germans or Japanese and we had to avoid being captured by them. 

At the end of the fairway that ran along the edge of the woods there was a green on top of a hill. Going up the side of that hill was a utility road. Sometimes I went out to the golf course in the evening when no one was there, and imagined there was a submachine gun nest at the top of that road, and I would be slowly making my way up the hill toward it, trying to avoid being hit by the machine gun fire. That was a totally involving reality. 

In the grass behind our modest summer house in White Meadow Lake, New Jersey I would play with little toy trucks. Once I was playing with a truck, driving it over a small rock in the middle of the grass, and it was as though I was experiencing an entire universe—an entire universe in square foot of grass with a patch of bare ground and a little rock in the middle of it. I was in ecstasy. Years later when I read Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality” and came upon the line, “though nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory of the flower,” I knew what he was talking about, I had experienced it with my little truck on that little rock in the middle of our back lawn.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0