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Joys of being a kid can never be topped

What with the war and all, depression can become a problem, especially with the holiday season upon us. I find that letting my mind wander in the past helps me cope, but the last time I did that, a smile crept its way out.

Being raised with Polish values, my brother and I looked out for each other to the extreme. Even though we weren't twins, we still could complete each other's thoughts and sentences at times, which got us into trouble more often than not.

Having Paul's birthday in December was great for the both of us, because it meant more cake and goodies for the holidays, not to mention toys -- and along with the toys came the boxes.

As many parents have found out the hard way, I am sure, half the fun for kids is unwrapping the gifts and then playing with the larger boxes. There's nothing like a free clubhouse to go along with the toys.

One such birthday, after both of us got a major sugar/cake buzz, we found ourselves checking out the new stuff while, for some unknown and rare reason, there were no grown-ups watching us.

Our grandparents and mom and dad were all in the backyard, so my brother and I decided to get some box races going.

Grandma's house was so clean at the time that no dust would dare show itself. So we felt that it was our duty, as kids, to give that a shot.

Take two boxes, one 9-year-old and one 6-year-old boy, and a very clean flight of stairs -- and we had ourselves an indoor sled course.

Cardboard is amazingly good for speed, but not good for landings. We grabbed all the couch cushions we could find (covered in plastic, of course), stacked them against the front door at the base of the stairs and away we went.

There was nothing like the feeling of terror on that first run, hoping we would not get caught.

Our laughter rang through the house, along with a few shouts of "I won that time!"

Finally, the back door opened and in popped some curious middle-aged and retirement-aged faces. After a rather close race, we both looked up to see dad and grandpa trying not to laugh, and failing at it. Mom and grandma had the shocked and then the stern look that all women seem to have down-pat after childbirth.

We both knew that the races had just been called due to grown-ups. After cleaning the stairs, couch and front rug, we headed home. We didn't realize until later that night that we did not even get a scolding for the "Race of the Boxes '78." But we were watched a lot more closely by the grown-ups after that visit.

Our parents and grandparents are all gone now, old age and sickness taking them away, so just memories remain of those simple times.

But somehow all the toys, gifts and holiday lights can never top that day of two brothers having fun -- and a lot of cake.

John F. Lodyga, of Hamburg, cherishes his memories of a simpler time.

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