Around the Bend: A genius for living


Someone once said that he wished that he still had "the genius for living" that he had as a child. I have been long aware of this and delight in that genius. The curiosity, spontaneity, mirth, and knack for having fun out of so little.

These qualities I see every time I am with a 4H group of 5 to 9 year olds that we go on hikes with. I can guarantee that if they come across a long log in the woods, they will all want to walk along it… Low-tech fun.

Every summer I have a tradition of going to a down-home meal at The Village restaurant and then, the nearby Fork Union Drive-in. There used to be over 50 drive-ins in Virginia; now there are under five. What brings me back each summer are the kids. In front of the screen is a large, grassy bowl, and here before the movie begins, the kids run wild. One year, a father pumped up a parachute launcher and, with each launch and descent, the kids scrambled to catch it. It went on, and I watched, for an hour.

Last summer was the best. The joy of running, kids’ style. Some boys improvised a free-form football game. A little guy with big glasses joined in and right away got hit in the face. Another player escorted him to his mother. I thought that he was through for the evening, but, moments later, he was back, without glasses. For a long time, another boy stood watching on the sidelines with his little sister and, then he finally joined in.

One boy spent the whole time racing from his father’s car to the screen and back. Another group spent the whole time playing full-tilt tag. There was one spirited girl. She occasionally retreated to home base, another car, but quickly was back into mad dashing about. Three boys fired a tennis ball back and forth with frequent sprints to retrieve it. There were several rings in this circus! I gave a color commentary to myself.

Yes, the joy of just running. To use a bit of a license, with all these small bodies flying about, it reminded me of a Breughel painting. I really wanted to join in, but my genius has been greatly curtailed. Who’s THAT guy out there? And, the movie? A very
forgettable Jim Carrey vehicle with penguins. If you want to see the kids at play, go when there is a kids’ movie.