Before I had sisters old enough to play with, I got bored with coffee time because the adults would sit around and talk. And talk, and talk, and talk, like there was nothing better in the world and they had endless things to say. Now that I'm older, I share that feeling (and even have coffee, on occasion). But at the time, as a four- or five-year-old, I couldn't wait to be excused so I could run downstairs and play.
My grandparents had (and still have) the best places in the world for a kid to play. They have an orchard on the hill behind the house, a delicious garden out front, a creek across the road, and lots of yard in between. I loved to run around barefoot in the dirt or grass, but the basement was a treasure, too. They had a pool table, a dart board, and a closet full of old toys, begging to be brought to life.
The closet's pull-chain light was even a thing of mythology. Later, when my sisters came along, I thought to ask if my mom and her six siblings ever had a rivalry.
"Oh, of course we did," she told me on more than one occasion. "Once, one of my brothers took my Barbie and tied the toy closet's pull-chain around her neck, so that when I turned on the light, I grabbed the Barbie instead of the chain." She always laughs when she tells this story. "I cried and cried."
One of my early favorite toys in the toy closet was a simple but enormous jar of marbles. But by the time my siblings came around, it was the Green Bay Packers helmet. My sisters and I would tie pillows to ourselves and take turns wearing the helmet, tackling each other on the hard basement floor (as the adults grimaced with each sack). Luckily, we never cracked our heads open, and we got to be linebackers for a brief afternoon.
Now, I'll gladly take a chat and a cup of coffee over the kid-sized Packers helmet (which, in my mind, was always a genuine helmet from a real player). Now, I'm one of the boring ones to my youngest cousins, sitting at the kitchen table and chatting about the weather, the state of potatoes, and the prettiest bird I happened to see one day.
It's just as fun as being a linebacker used to be.