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HUCKABY: Times may change, but is that really good?

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a kid these days? It has been a long time since I’ve had a little one in my house. It has been even longer since I’ve been one. Oh, for the simple joys of childhood — but are they really so simple? Or joyful?

Probably so.

How do you suppose children choose sides these days? Or, do they even choose sides? Remember how we used to do it? “We” would be those of us who are of my generation. If you are the rare youthful prodigy that has the foresight to enjoy my weekly collection of words, feel free to come along for the ride as we head back to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

“One potato, two potato, three potato, four ...” Remember that? You had to ball up your fists to make the potatoes — and I always used a little double tap to count the potatoes out. There was also the “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” method. Believe it or not, Rudyard Kipling used the “tiger” version of that rhyme in a published works over a hundred years ago.

Oh, well. Kids probably aren’t allowed to choose sides nowadays. It would hurt the self-esteem of the little whiny boogers that are chosen last. Phychologists probably claim that children who are picked last grow into defensive, insecure adults with inferiority complexes.

That’s not true is it? I mean, you really like me don’t you? I try hard every week to make you like me. We can’t all be Rhonda Rich you know — but I try. I really do!

Kids nowadays have play-dates. Mama “A” calls up Mama “B” — or actually, I suppose, that would be Mom “A” calls up Mom “B” — today’s children are, unfortunately, far too sophisticated to call their maternal parents “mama” — and arrange for the kids to get together.

No play-dates when I was little. Not in Porterdale anyway. We just got up each morning and wandered around the village until we found a group of kids doing whatever it was kids were doing back in those days. They may have been building a fort out of scavenged materials or putting together a go-kart from purloined lumber and cast-off lawn mower tires. Perhaps there was a mumbly-peg game going on or maybe somebody was damming up the creek and catching crawdads.

There was always plenty to do back in the pre-electronic age and nobody waited for an invitation to join in the fun. You just barged right in and made a way for yourself. Now admittedly you had to be pretty tough to do that and, looking back, it is amazing that more of us weren’t all left alone in our homes cutting out paper dolls from the newspaper — what with all the one-potatoing and being chosen last that was going on. (Self-esteem issues, you know.) But all-in-all, I think most of us turned out OK.

You know what else we didn’t pay much attention to back in the day? Clothes. Here in the 21 century children seem to set a great store by the labels they wear. I blame that on the mamas — oh, pardon me — on the moms. I used to wear the same pair of overalls every day. Sure the knees got a little grimy. We spent a lot of time on our knees when I was a boy. We’d shoot marbles and stick pieces of straw in doodle bug holes and play with army men — it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an army man, other than when I watched Toy Story 3 this summer. When you spend as much time on your knees as we used to, your overalls tend to get stained. Nobody cared because everyone else had stained knees, too — except for the kids who got picked last and stayed inside cutting out paper dolls.

Today’s kids miss out on a lot of other great activities, too. I bet nobody rolls down hills in coaster wagons anymore, just so they can intentionally wreck at the bottom of the hill. They don’t scour the neighborhood looking for “Co-cola” bottles to turn in for the two-cent deposit, either. And I bet it has been a long time since anyone made a tractor out of a rubber band, an empty wooden spool and a Prince Albert can.

Oh, well. Times change, and change, so they say, is good. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’d anymore trade places with the kids of today than I would trade my 1957 Mickey Mantle card for a 2010 Chipper Jones.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.