plā′wėrk′ings, n. Portions of play matters consideration; draft formations.

I’ve had a series of face-to-face conversations and online communications recently with people who either grew up in various parts of the world or who have worked there. Stories of play from around the world are always intriguing. Sometimes I find similarities in the play that I’ve seen and taken part in in my own country; sometimes there seems to be some sort of exotic otherness to it all. I’m hoping to be able to pull together some of those stories in the not too distant future. Either way, I have a ‘world play’ section on this blog already and adding to it every so often has always been the plan.

To that end, I asked the permission of another blogger, Stuart M. Perkins, to share one of his play stories. I found this story a few weeks ago. Stuart’s in Virginia, USA, and has given his permission to reproduce something that I liked the feel of: Cardboard Adventures. This is one those play stories that feels familiar, rather than ‘exotic’, but that’s why I wanted to post it up here. I usually shift American spelling to suit a UK audience in things I find, but I think I might just leave this one be here. It’s Stuart’s voice, after all! He writes:

Riding the bus home from work this afternoon, about two stops from my apartment, a mother and her young teenage son got on and sat behind me. The son had apparently just come from the dentist and was still a bit whiny from the experience.

His mother said, ‘I know it was rough, but when you get home you can go upstairs and play with your Xbox.’

A nice day like this and she instructed her son to go inside and play with his Xbox?

When I was his age, Mama told me to go outside and play with a cardboard box.

Not just any cardboard box. One of the huge cardboard boxes from the T.V. shop.

When my sisters and I were kids, there was a T.V. shop across the field. As new televisions were delivered for display, the huge cardboard boxes they were shipped in were then stacked behind the shop for disposal. If we promised to ask the owner first, Mama would occasionally allow us to drag one across the field to our backyard. Along the way, we attracted the attention of cousins playing outside and they joined the fun.

Although Mama allowed us to drag a box home from time to time, she did so reluctantly, knowing that ultimately she would be left to dispose of the ragged remains. Sooner or later we would be done with the box. Sooner if it rained. Rain is cardboard’s enemy.

Those huge boxes easily held me, a sister, and one of the smaller cousins all at the same time. An old rusty pair of scissors in Daddy’s garage helped us shape each box into the fantasy of the day. Once, we cut portholes in a seaworthy box and hacked off the top to make an open air deck. We crawled inside and waited for tidal waves.

‘What’s this one?’ Mama asked as she walked by to pick tomatoes, clearly wondering how long it would be before she had to dispose of our creation.

‘A cruise ship!’ we answered back.

‘No. It’s trash is what it is,’ she said.

We once hooked two boxes together and made a train. We cut away the front of one box so the engineer could wave to cars, and we cut away the back of the second box so that passengers could wave from the caboose. We crawled inside and waited to arrive at the station.

‘What’s this one?’ Mama asked as she swept the sidewalk.

‘A train!’ we answered back.

‘No. It’s trash is what it is,’ she said.

One particularly grand box that had held a console television made a perfect army tank. We cut a lookout hole in the top, made several holes in the walls to shoot from, and we crawled inside and waited for the enemy.

‘What’s this one?’ Mama asked as she carried in groceries.

‘A tank!’ we answered back.

‘No. It’s trash is what it is,’ she said.

There was a period when we’d gone quite a while without cardboard adventures. It was during this bleak time that a Sears delivery truck backed into my neighbor’s driveway. As we watched the truck maneuver closer to the back door, one of my cousins was the first to realize the magnitude of the event.

‘Mrs. Brenneman’s getting a new refrigerator,’ the cousin whispered, so as not to hex this dream come true.

We salivated.

After what seemed an eternity, one of the delivery men appeared with the empty cardboard box that had held the refrigerator. With some effort, he dragged it into our neighbor’s yard and went back inside.

Four of us kids, working like ants carrying bread, managed to slide, drag, and inch the massive cardboard box over to our backyard. We climbed in to savor the smell and experience the silence. The silence was momentarily broken as our collie pushed her way in, licked each of us in the face and left. Even she seemed amazed by our good fortune.

We sat there inside the cavernous box trying to decide what to turn this gift into. Before we reached a consensus it got dark outside. Cousins had to go home and my sisters and I had to go inside.

The morning came and horror of all horrors, it had rained in the night.  We ran outside to check on our massive cardboard box. The rain hadn’t ruined it completely, but the once stately walls now sagged, corners were rounded over by the rainwater, and the smooth outside was now wrinkled and peeling.

A couple of cousins walked up. We stood looking at our sagging mound of a box, not wanting to believe our prize was ruined, but it appeared to be so.

‘What’s this one?’ Mama asked on her way to get the mail.

‘It’s trash is what it is,’ we answered back, resigned to the truth.

‘No. It’s an igloo,’ Mama said.

We looked at each other and grinned. We ran to the rounded shell of a box, molded the wet cardboard so as to give us one long tunnel as an entrance, and we crawled inside and waited for polar bears.

I suppose as I type this, the young teenager just back from the dentist is playing alone with his Xbox. I never had an Xbox, but unless it came in packaging large enough for cousins and me to fashion a cruise ship, train, tank, and an igloo, I don’t know that I would have wanted one.


Comments on: "Cardboard adventures . . . guest post" (2)

  1. Thanks for including me in such a cool and interesting thing to focus on – “world play”! I appreciate it. Thanks again, very much. Stuart

    • There’s a lot of play in the world and a lot to find! You’re over there and I’m over here and you’re part of it. 🙂

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