From Sept. 22, 2007
cleaning out a desk drawer in my office on Wednesday, I came across a
package of crayons, a box of 16 with a few colors missing and one or two
half-melted crayons. A wave of nostalgia swept over me, for the days
when a coloring book and a box of crayons could keep me happily
In my childhood, the biggest box
of crayons I ever owned was a 64-pack. I always coveted the 96-crayon
box, so when it came time to buy my son his first box of crayons, that
is the size I purchased. Now that my son is in middle school, crayons
have dropped off the list of school supplies needed. Scented markers
were apparently never “cool” for a boy to have, so I haven’t had fun
with those since I was in elementary school.
My son has been the
recipient of a lot of toys and gadgets that remind me of my youth. While
someone can never be too old for Play-Doh, it’s been a long time since
I’ve seen him use it. Opening a can for that distinctive, familiar smell
and squishing and rolling it around in your hands is soothing, better
for you than squeezing a stress ball. Silly Putty works too.
Christmas I found a metal Slinky in my stocking, a joke from my sister
to replace one she had bent out of shape years ago. It found a home in
my son’s room. Most card games can be found on computers today, but I
still have a few packs of cards around. My sister and I spent a lot of
time playing games like War, Old Maid, Go Fish, and variations of
solitaire, our favorite being clock solitaire. Rubik’s Cube was big in
my childhood, but I could never solve it. My son has one, and we still
haven’t lined the colors back up.
What I could use was the Rubik’s
Snake, which could be contorted into lots of shapes like a dog, a duck, a
swan, a telephone, and various gun shapes. My specialty is the ball,
which I can still create in less than 20 seconds, even if blindfolded or
holding the Rubik’s Snake behind my back.
I once loved building
blocks, especially Legos, so naturally my son has tubs of them. Sadly, I
seem to have outgrown building fanciful structures and cars with
blocks. Instead the blocks bring out my obsessive-compulsive tendencies,
and I find myself compelled to sort them into piles by size, shape and
color. My son finds this habit useful when he’s picking up his blocks.
time to time, I think we need a little play therapy, an escape from
reality back to pursuits that made us happy. We need to embrace our
sense of whimsy, and take delight in simple pleasures, like coloring or
playing with childhood toys and gadgets. If there’s a bottle of white
glue handy, you can rub some glue onto your fingertips, let it dry and
then peel off your fingerprints.
It’s just as important to take a
nature time-out and watch butterflies, hummingbirds or fireflies, or lay
back and stare up at the sky, watching for falling stars or trying to
spot shapes in the clouds. I don’t do it often enough, but it’s fun to
spin until I’m dizzy and then try to run. It usually ends with me
collapsing on the ground in a fit of giggles.
I think brainstorming
meetings would be more productive and creative if the first five or
10-minutes was spent coloring, playing with play dough or clay or even
tying up long strands of yarn or string to play cat’s cradle.
fall, I tucked away a few fallen leaves I picked up during a walk, to
have a reminder of my favorite season when winter seems to drag on. One
leaf remains after a year, and it has been sitting on my desk. On a
whim, I pulled out a crisp sheet of white paper, dug into the
rediscovered box of crayons, picking out autumn colors, and made leaf
rubbings. In a few minutes I was done, but the sense of peace and calm I
enjoyed afterwards lasted much longer. It fired the creative spark that
made this column easy to write.
Find a way to recapture your sense
of whimsy, taking delight in the small moments that make life magical.
Remember the importance of play, even if it is just for five minutes.