I grew up in New England, Rhode Island, to be precise. Back then (when dinosaurs roamed), television was something watched at night, to learn the news of the world, perhaps discover something of nature (Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, anyone??), and occasionally see a movie or documentary program. We didn't watch during the day, and cartoons were for Saturday morning.
I spent many summers living with my grandparents in Little Compton. When I was a bit older, I would bike all over town - down to the beach or the harbor, to Wilbur's general store, or up to Walker's roadside stand (best.corn.ever.), but before that...before I could ramble and roll mile after mile down Swamp Road, to Lloyd's Beach, South Shore beach or down Taylor's lane...before that, I played in my grandparent's yard.
Back then, they kept a horse and a pony stabled in the side yard, housed in a small barn with a paddock to wander in. I loved that horse, and even liked the pony (despite his being an ill-tempered beast), and would feed them corn husks and apples and pat then fondly on the neck when they'd let me.
I would play in the trees, a grand arc of them sweeping around the drive and stretching high into the heavens. Beneath their boughs, I had a pine-scented playhouse like no other, and could keep hidden for hours if I wanted.
Sometimes, my cousins would come to stay, too, and we'd play together. In the Spring and Summer, we would go out into the yard, plop down into the grass, and go about the serious business of being children. We'd pluck the green blades and try to make whistles out of them. We'd chew the grass meditatively, and make little wreaths out of it. We'd blow Dandelion fluff into the breeze and watch it float along. And...we'd look for buttercups.
Sweet little blossoms, yellow and shiny, they grew in clusters here and there. I don't know who taught us the game...it stretches so far back in my memory's thread, it may just as well have been there when I was born, spun into being when I was. We'd pick one of the friendly flowers and hold it under our chins. Do you like butter? If your chin turns yellow, you do...
A pointless way to pass time, but we spent hours at it.
Not long ago, I was thinking about Buttercups. I haven't seen them in may years, and I wondered if they even exist any more. No one wants yellow in their green, so fertilizers, weed killers, mowers, and trowels could well have wiped them out. I wondered if anyone played the game, held them under expectant chins and giggled when the reflected yellow light showed a penchant for dairy. I felt sad, thinking that children today are inundated with electronic media...but don't know the simple joys of Dandelions and Buttercups.
Imagine my delight when I saw them, then, sheltering beneath K's portable cot at the camp in Mass. There they were, a little cluster of the happy fellows, nodding and inviting fun. I didn't pick one, but I did shoot a few pictures - who know when I'll see them again? - and looked at them fondly.
I am thankful for the reminder of simpler times, simpler pleasures, of easy days uncomplicated by bills, concerns, turmoils. The world could use more buttercups...