When I was younger, I could remember the way the hallways would litter themselves with the broken bodies of the soldiers that fought across my carpet extolling gunfire on each other as if there was no tomorrow. And when you're that young, whether or not there was a tomorrow coming was irrelevant. You were too busy in the today to worry that far ahead. The smoking missile shards, burning tanks and rapid gunfire of the men as they rounded the door jam to rush the upstairs hallway was a grand vision indeed to me.
But as time wore on, there came a time to do something they call "growing up." Eventually, to make room for the books and the computers that became my new toys and past times, the soldiers were piled away in a shipping bin in the attic. When I have some free time again, I said in my still young mind, I'll take them out. The free time never came and the years melted away until now. And I forgot the thrill of planning the plastic invasion of the far corners of whatever room was considered strategically important at the time.
One of the things I wanted most, besides the latest tank series of course, was freedom. The freedom to do what I wanted whenever I wanted. I have that now, or at least as much of it as I can stand. At the age I am now, I can decide when I'm going to have a cookie. Or change the thermostat without hearing my father bellow through the house about how traumatic a two-degree change can be to the house. And even go out at three in the morning for no apparent reason other than to drive around for a while. But in gaining all these personal freedoms one of the ones I lost I have found to be more important than I imagined. The freedom to play. As a child, playing was expected. Now playing should either be "adult" pursuits like chess or basketball or a multitude of other games grown ups play. But where's the soldiers? Why can't I launch an invasion of the nearest tuft of grass now that I'm twenty six? It's the freedom to play that we lose unless you have the unusual ability to care not what the others would think, whoever your "others" might be.
Dad took me up into the attic on one visit to help him decide if a few things could be thrown out. I stepped back fifteen or so years when I climbed the old-style, winding staircase into the musty room that ran the length of the house. Nearly everything I saw was a piece of my lifetime. He pointed to a printer and asked if he could throw it out. Throw it out? What are you crazy? That's the first PC printer I ever owned! That thing printed my journal, and my fantasy stories, my poems and a whole slew of things back in its day! I yelled but only to myself. "I I guess so," I stammered. That was all he really wanted to know on that visit, but I kept up the stairs until I was standing there, staring at a big, brown bin. At that point I realized the freedom to play that I had lost.
Opening the cover and looking inside, there they all were waiting for me. I remembered their names, their duties, their battle cries and I heard the far-off explosions of the tanks sounding as if they were suddenly with me again. The gunfire and yells came back and suddenly I was looking around the room, eyes darting methodically, taking in the layout of the land and planning the strategy it would take to grab hold of this room, strategically place the forts and keep the enemy at bay. I knew it would take the best of my cunning the fireplace that rose up in the center of the floor rather than at the wall would provide ample room for an ambush and that must be avoided. Maybe a flanking maneuver coming around the bookcase over there would give me a good view and line of fire to the and then I replaced the cover.
I didn't want to lose that freedom. I never wanted to, but didn't realize just how much time being an adult takes. I feel bad sometimes when I don't finish enough work in a day. But after hearing the men shout, I'm starting to feel bad for not playing enough in a day. A change for the better, I think, and I'm going to win that freedom back. One day when Laura comes home there will be a plastic army lying in any spot of floor I could find. And a deranged yours truly lumbering around on my no-longer-childlike knees making rumbling and explosion sounds again. With a strange look she'll want to know what I'm doing. "Playing," I'll answer, quite matter of factly. And when will it be cleaned up and I become an adult again? I figure once I start it will be at least a few good explosions before I'm finished. I'll clean up my toys then. When I'm done. But right now, I'm not done playing.