Children help us step outside the box of traditions and take on a new perspective. They give us a new outlook on the ordinary. They give us laughter and make our hearts light.
One blustery March day when hot chocolate seemed like a good snack, my two great grandchildren said, “Let’s have a picnic!” Now, I’m up for a picnic almost anytime, but that day really didn’t seem like a picnic day. But I asked what they wanted for their picnic. The answer was popcorn.
A popcorn picnic on a cool breezy day?
A picnic is a pleasant, fun, event more often associated with summer. You may think of a picnic by the sea or a picnic in the mountains, or a picnic in the park. But of course a picnic can be anywhere you spread out a blanket, or settle around a table for that matter. Just call it a picnic and it’s a picnic! You may think of PBJ sandwiches or pimiento cheese. You think of stuffed eggs and fried chicken. You think of crisp cookies and potato chips, maybe apples or bananas. But I think this was the first time we’ve had a popcorn picnic.
When I think of popcorn I think of the exciting sound of the popping, the buttery smell, the fluffy mounds of snowy kernels magically made from those hard little seeds. The warm friendly smell reminds me of the theater, a good movie with family members. It reminds me of going to a country fair, fun at a fall festival, and football games. I remember my parents popping corn in a corn popper held over an open fire. It was a rare occasion when we had popcorn and thus a very special one. The popper was a contraption with a pan that was closed and could swivel on long handles, turning upside down and right again as the corn began to pop. Daddy joked that the popping corn was the sound of soldiers firing away inside the pan.
Charli found the bright beach towel I sent her for, Kaison hauled a packet of popcorn out of the pantry. With some bickering they popped the corn, poured it in bowls, and headed out to a nice grassy place near the mulberry tree. Munching on popcorn and sipping sodas, they were happier than clams on the seashore. They tossed kernels in the air and tried to catch them in their mouths. It was nice no one would have to sweep popcorn from the den floor! I huddled, shivering, on a bench nearby, joining in their chatter and a guessing game or two, then watched them play badminton. They didn’t worry about the wind blowing the birdie in all directions, just thought it was funny.
On another day when summer had invaded spring Kaison disappeared for much too long and I went hunting for him. I finally realized that the odd pile of pillows on the couch was his fort and he was inside it. That fort, as it turned out, was a hiding place for Kaison to play his cell phone games, free from shadowy glares and free from Nana’s prompting to “go outside and play.” When he emerged from his seclusion he was drenched with sweat.
We’ve learned never to throw away a big box if there are children who can enjoy it for a day. That box becomes a fort, a theater, a playhouse, and even a monster’s mansion. Though sturdy treehouses can be very nice, don’t discount the fun two lively children can have in a cattle trailer. An old fashioned lawnmower, relic of quieter days with no motor, becomes a source of great entertainment even for kids who have dirt bikes and four-wheelers at home. And oh, the fun they can have with a box of chalk and an asphalt driveway.
Some of their ideas don’t work, such as trying to catch butterflies in January or climbing a tree in flip flops. Some attempts have to be thwarted by stuffy adults for being too risky, like chasing each other with six foot bamboo swords.
It’s a good thing, though, to listen to the children’s proposals, such as a popcorn picnic. You can learn a lot. And just maybe you’ll have a chance to share one of your own bits of wisdom or even fit their energy to accomplishing a chore, like picking up pine cones or pulling weeds.
Considering the inventiveness and freshness of children’s play, I’m reminded of the cartoon Charles shared the other day. A little boy says to his father, “When I grow up my shoes will be bigger. I’ll have longer laces so you won’t have so much trouble tying them for me, Dad.”
Robert Louis Stevenson was one of those fortunate people who never did grow up, at least not in attitude. He wrote this poem for his book “A Child’s Garden of Verses”:
“When I am grown to man’s estate
I shall be very proud and great,
And tell the other girls and boys
Not to meddle with my toys.”