Tales from My Outdoorsy, Dirt-Filled Childhood

by Lisa Douglas

Seeing the gigantic unopened ten-pound bag of potatoes was enough for me to crave a nice, bitey potato salad. As I washed, peeled and marveled at the size of some of these monsters from the fresh sack, the smell of soil and earth infiltrated my nostrils. I couldn’t help but close my eyes at the sink, instantly transported to being an eight-year-old little girl.

I practically lived outside as a child. The dirt I’m sure I collected on my clothing and under my fingernails painted quite the picture of an outdoors-lovin’, awkward, gangly tomboy who loved running and performing cartwheels to and fro. I can still see the neighbor children with whom I’d bike-ride with every day, or the ones who’d play “red-light, green-light” with me, or would collect rocks and draw with chalk, and dig trenches and snow-forts and play hide-and-go-seek.

As long as the sun was up, I was outside basking in it.
If there was a tree with branches low enough, I’d be climbing that tree, or setting up forts against it.
If there were leaves on the ground, I was raking them to fall into a pile, or creating shapes with them.
I walked barefoot on the ground because there was no such thing as a ‘biting ant’ in New York.
I lived for the soil under my toes, the smell of mint in my mother’s grass.
I would lay on the ground, looking up the sun and clouds and find shapes for hours.

I particularly remember a world where it was uncomplicated to be a kid, especially outdoors. A world where we were expected to be outside always, never needing pressure or incentive to get there; a world where the games never ended, and the air smelled like sweet freedom, didn’t it? So much fresher, and oh so deliriously enticing.

There are days as a parent where I wish I could fold myself up into an envelope and mail myself back into time, back into those days, just to smell my momma’s grass and garden again, and lay on that cool lawn in the sun and stare at the clouds with not a worry in the world. I wish I could take my children with me, even for a few moments, to experience that childhood bliss with me.

It leaves me to wonder: in this technological age, what will our society’s children growing up today long to remember when they get older? What part of their childhood will they wish to mail themselves back to experience? Will it be to succumb to the sweet smells of friends, and dirt under their nails after a day well spent in the fresh air like me? Will it be to splash around in that mud puddle and wash grass out of their hair that night?

I certainly hope that’s what my children will long for.

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