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Nature’s Toys


Fri, Dec 16th, 2005
Posted in Commentary

At this time of the year, when people labor over their Christmas lists, I think looking into your heart and asking what is really important you find that being together and sharing should be at the top of your list.

This collection began as I watched Hunter, my 2-year old grandson delight in a spring puddle. In summer he discovered a hole. Fall brought leaves. Winter gave the gift of snow.

Puddles

One Saturday spring morning, Hunter, his mom and I went to a garage sale to look for clothes and toys. As his mom checked out the stuff I watched Hunter’s eyes catch sight of a very big and dirty puddle.

It had rained the previous night and the driveway entrance was a covered with an enticing collection of sticks, plastic things, pebbles, mud and rainwater.

Hunter looked up at me with wide eyes and in a soft pleading voice asked, “Can I go in?”

I shook my head, “No, you’ll get cold and wet.”

While surveying the contents of the garage, I kept my eyes on Hunter. He poked at the water with a stick and with one quick splash the stick became a paddle. Then he pounded the stick as hard as he could and made a very big splash. Giggling, his eyes darted to mine and I unconvincingly shook my head and assumed the I-don’t-think-so-face. My stern look didn’t phase him. His joy was infective and I couldn’t help but smile.

Hunter let out a big groan as he watched his stick float away. Reaching to grab it his shoe toe entered the water. The temptation was clear. The stick was pulling him into the puddle. Hunter grabbed at the stick as I glanced over to the piles of stuff on the tables. I knew I’d find dry socks and pants there.

As one of Hunter’s Nursery School friends approached, he looked hopefully at Hunter and the puddle, but his parents maintained control. Hunter did his very best to urge others to join in his fun. With a bottle top placed carefully on top of his stick he made a boat. He found little stones and took careful aim at the puddle’s center. His stick became a shovel used to push mud around. Then it became a scoop for a plastic ring. He splashed. He played. Some adults smiled. Some shook their heads.

Hunter was having fun. He laughed. He giggled. His shoes, socks and pant legs were very wet. Slowly he circled the puddle, paused, obviously making a decision, then he took off at a full run right straight to the puddle’s center. He stood in the middle with a wondrous smile plastered across his red-cheeked face. He was very wet.

When he finally tired, I bought him pants and socks and we held hands and walked home together.

Snow

The very best toy is snow. You can throw it, climb it, make forts, roll down it and when it’s just right it can turn into a snowman. Snow is also very important. Everybody talks about it and they listen thoughtfully to reports about its coming and going.

It was a cold November day when snow began to fall. At first it was tiny little crystals that gradually became big white flakes. Hunter and I watched out the window as it blanketed the ground. When we could wait no longer, we put on our snow pants, coats, mittens and hats and headed out. The snow was light and airy and as hard as we tried it wouldn’t stick together for snowballs. Instead we lay down, opened and closed our arms and legs and created snow angels.

After several days it had finally snowed enough for us to make a snow fort. “Let’s get Poppa,” Hunter said, referring to his grandfather..

“A snow fort is a great idea,” Poppa said. He found each of us a shovel and together we piled snow high enough so we could dig a hole through each side and create a tunnel. Hunter crawled in, paused, lay down on his back and looked up at the snow ceiling. “It’s a room,” he said.

“Some people would call it an igloo,” Poppa said. “Let’s call it our cave.”

“Our very own cave,” Hunter said with a big smile on his face.

Poppa shoveled snow out of our cave to make it bigger. Hunter’s job was to craw in and out and then to judge when it was finally big enough for us all. “It’s big enough,” he declared. We crawled in and rested on the snow floor. With rosy red faces and happy eyes we looked up at the snow ceiling as nature embraced us and our cave completely surrounded us.

Over the next several weeks we spent many days making more tunnels, windows and rooms. We waited for the snow to become just the right consistency to make really good snowballs. When the snow was just right, I made the first snowball and took aim at Hunter’s back. It hit the mark. Hunter turned and giggled. My back was the next target. After lots of snowballs were tossed back and forth, Hunter asked, “Can we make a snowman?”

“Let’s try,” I said.

The snow easily took the shape of a ball. We rolled that ball until we could move it not one more inch. It became the base of our snowman. We rolled another ball, then hoisted it on the base. A small ball became the head and together we lifted it up and set it down. Hunter and I dashed inside the house, grabbed two carrots, a pickle, some cheese flavored chips and one of Poppa’s old cowboy hats and a bandanna. Hunter stuck the carrots in and magically our snowman got eyes. The pickle became his nose and the chips his mouth. We tied the bandanna around his neck and placed the old hat on his head.

“How about we call him Tex,” I suggested.

“Yup,” Hunter answered.

For the rest of the winter, each time we passed Tex, Hunter patted his belly. When Hunter left to go home each day he blew Tex a goodbye kiss. Tex lasted until the days got warm. We removed his hat and scarf and gradually all the vegetables fell to earth. Ultimately Tex became a puddle. Once again, Hunter asked, “Can I jump in?”

Nature’s circle of toys began anew.

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Hoffman Stables