We have a lovely independent bookstore downtown, and they have a decent children’s book section. It is not quite what I would want to have if I opened my own bookstore, but it is pretty close. The other day, I was browsing in that bookstore and found a copy of one of my favorite books from childhood – Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.
Pippi Longstocking remains a fun read, although I suspect that many adults would be frustrated at some of the ridiculous things that Pippi says and does. Pippi lives on her own. Her mother died when she was little, and her father was a sailor who was lost at sea. Pippi has a lot of money, a lot of treasures from around the world, and a house with a monkey and a horse. The book tells of her adventures with her two friends: Tommy and Annika.
Pippi Longstocking is another book that takes me back to my days of childish creativity. Now, you might think that “childish creativity” is a bad thing. We often give the word childish a negative connotation. In my eyes childish creativity is a precious thing to be treasured. Have you ever watched children playing? When they are away from the televisions and computers and video games, children invent some of the neatest games to play. They are fun to watch, and it is a treasure when they invite you to be a part of their creative games and expression.
I remember when I was in preschool. I believe the place was called Playmates (or something like that). I went to preschool with my dear friend Jenny who lived two streets over. Jenny was a wonderful friend, and I miss her dearly. We are friends on social media now, but that just is not quite the same.
There was a time in preschool where we were given cardboard boxes to paint and decorate and turn into whatever we wanted. I must have been watching the Dukes of Hazzard at the time and decided to turn my box into a car. Not just any car, the General Lee. I painted the box orange. I added paper plates to the sides of the box as tires. I used a paper plate inside the box as a steering wheel. I painted the number 01 on the side of the box. I had my own General Lee.
Reading Pippi reminded me of some of the creative play from when I was younger – like the creation of the General Lee at preschool. I don’t remember what other kids did with their boxes, but I do remember that preschool as a very fun place where we were free to explore and create.
The other thing that I remember about that preschool was that it was housed in a building next to the public library. When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time at the public library. My parents would always take us there if we asked. It has been decades since I last stepped into that library, but I can still close my eyes and picture it today. You walked through the doors and the checkout desk was just to your left. There were books to your right and left, and in front of you stairs that went up to the second floor and down into the basement. The children’s books were on the second floor. That is also where we went for the summer reading program. I loved that library and love it still. I sometimes wish I still lived in that smaller community and could go to that library again.
Where I live now, we have several libraries – a large central one and several branch libraries. They have a different feel today. I understand that libraries have had to change, but I wish that society valued books enough to keep libraries open and fully stocked. I wish that children still experienced the joys I had in going to the library.
Going to the bookstore was also a special treat. One thing that my dad would never say no to was a trip to the bookstore. Looking back, as a father of 4 daughters and with my mom not working until I was older, I am amazed at how my parents would do whatever it took to make sure that our house was filled with books, music, art, love, and creativity. As an adult struggling to give the same to my own children, I realize how much of a struggle all of that must have been for my dad. If we asked for books, we got books. Not all children grew up in that type of supportive environment.
It is amazing how a book from the past brings these things back and causes us to reflect on the things we did not see as children. The lens of adulthood clarifies, but sometimes it also corrupts. My wish to all who read this is that you find your childish creativity and joy every day. That joy and kindness and simplicity is really what life is all about when you strip away the “necessities” and stresses of adulthood. I long for a simpler time where childish creativity was celebrated rather than scorned.
Until next time, Happy Reading!