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Charles Lamb: Life’s simple pleasures can bring us great joy

My granddaughter, who lives in Alaska, sent me a request for a school project when she was in junior high. She wanted me to describe the home in which I lived as a child.

“She must think I really lived in a primitive way!” I thought. My home wasn’t all that different than it is now. So I wrote that I grew up in a cave and we always kept a fire going at the entrance to keep the dinosaurs out at night.

Of course, I explained later that my home was much like hers, except we listened to the radio at night rather than a TV, and had a washing machine with a ringer. We didn’t miss what we didn’t have; life was good! The whole exchange helped me start remembering those simpler days.

We had a large front porch that was covered, but open at the sides. It sloped slightly toward the front step. From the front door to the step there was a rubber mat with ridges, perhaps 12 feet long.

When I was a child, my friends and I learned that if we stacked marbles against the front door, on the little ridge of floor that protruded from the door over the mat, and then pulled on the door knob, that would dislodge the marbles and they would roll down the mat to the step.

This became our horse race game. Each of us had marbles, so we would compete by placing our marbles on the ridge, shaking the door and then seeing which marble was the fastest. Winner take all.

This occupied many summer hours until my long-suffering Mother would finally say, “Haven’t you banged that door enough to stop for awhile?”

We also invented a baseball game. Each of us had a team of little blocks of wood representing our team. Mine were green; my friends had players in other colors. Each had a number.

We made up rules with dice so that certain rolls indicated certain results. I don’t remember all of them now, but I’m sure a double one or double six was a hit. A five was a foul ball. Once you rolled a hit, then you rolled again to see how far the ball went. Again, double one or double six was a home run while other numbers represented triples, doubles or singles. After a foul ball, we would roll to see whether or not it was caught.

After lots of experimentation, our rules worked perfectly. We played games that resulted in realistic scores. We kept the batting averages of our players, and made sure the best hitters batted first and the long ball hitter had the cleanup spot. I think we should have patented and sold our game. We played a whole season.

Today it would not sell, I’m sure. Kids want computer games, which look much more realistic but also cost a great deal more. Ours cost nothing except for a pair of dice and some marbles.

I would bet we had just as much fun, or more, than young people do today with their sophisticated and expensive games.

It was a different time. The worst trouble you could get into at school was being caught chewing gum. If you were penalized by going to detention hall, which meant staying for an hour after school in the library, your parents would be quite upset with you when you got home.

Sometimes I long for those older days. I know we can’t go back. But I hope the present generation learns that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to have fun and that it’s more fun playing with friends than playing alone.