I lament often about how much better life seemed when I was a kid. Life was simpler, play was safer and more imaginative. When I was a kid playing (way back in the 1980s) we learned how to fill in the blanks where technology had left off. It made us smarter and more creative. But by the 1990s much of that was out the window. Everything was more sophisticated—from video games to dollhouses. My little cousin’s dollhouse was so fancy it came with a remote control that operated the lights and a doorbell. We had to make all that kind of stuff up.
So now when I tell my son these tales of yesteryear when I was his age in 1981, how we had to get up and change the channel on the cable box and no one had the Internet, he stares in disbelief unable to imagine such hardships. We may tend to think of our children’s generation as a bunch of lazy, spoiled kids who don’t know how good they have it. And while to some degree that might be true, there are still lots of kids out there who want to play outside until the street lights come on and use their imaginations.
Case in point is the Speed Racer 1000. That’s the name of my son Isaiah’s box car. And by box I mean an actual box. He came up with the idea a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know what got into him other than maybe spending a week with me at Georgia Tech this summer must have inspired him. So he came up to me one day and said, “Mama, I want to build a car.”
“Okay,” I replied and went back to watching TV. as I was sure that he meant a tiny toy car.
He comes back requesting a cardboard box and tape. Then he comes back a little while later wanting to know if I have any wheels. That’s when I realize he wanted to build a—CAR, one that he can actually ride in. I explained to him that those were called go carts. So we went online, just out of curiosity, to see what it takes to make one. Now let me just stop right here and say that my mechanical skills extend to just shortly beyond hammering a nail and bookcase assembly. So needless to say that we quickly discovered go cart construction was too sophisticated.
Then I had an idea. I had just purchased a bookcase from IKEA whose packaging was perfect. I reinforced the rectangular box with tape and Isaiah cut a big hole in the top to sit down in. He then taped the bottom of the box to his skateboard and viola … we have a box car.
Now let me just say that I had absolutely no faith that this would actually work, but off to the park we went. After we got there and got set up a small crowd of about five curious kids and a couple of parents had gathered. Isaiah, so proud, announced the take off of the aptly named Speed Racer 1000. I could only laugh. But he positioned himself at the top of a slight incline and as one of the dad’s gave him a good push, off he went down and around. I’ll be dog gone it worked!
After that, several of the kids wanted to try it and so they took turns riding in the box car. I couldn’t help but appreciate that even with all of the technology available that there were still some kids who do still appreciate the simple pleasure of pretend play. Thanks to the Speed Racer 1000 (which after all the rides has finally fallen apart and had to be retired to the dumpster). Ahh, but it was fun while it lasted.