A Child’s Jewelry Box

Another one from the family keepsakes.

This will probably apply to girls more than boys, but who had a jewelry box (or similar keepsake box) as a child? Did you have one that wound up with a twirling ballerina? For some reason, I’ve kept my jewelry box all these years with jewelry I wore as a little girl. I don’t think I’ve looked at it in over a decade, except for when I’m sorting through stuff and deciding what to toss, what to keep.

Top of the box.

Top of the box. Yes, of course, it has kittens on it.

Back of the box - wind up to hear the song.

Back of the box – wind up to hear the song.

Inside: felted thick paper creates three spaces. This ballerina has lost her tutu and has seen better days, but the music still plays and she still twirls when I open the box.

Inside: felted thick paper creates three spaces. This ballerina has lost her tutu and has seen better days, but the music still plays and she still twirls when I open the box. What did I find in there? Just random necklaces and bracelets that I used to wear as a little girl (that’s a unicorn necklace on the right) and a bunch of beaded necklaces on the left.

This particular jewelry is also a music box, a combination of the two. What sort of jewelry box did you have? Today I have a few small ceramic boxes (some from childhood, too) that were gifts from relatives and friends. Did you know that jewelry boxes were uncommon to the masses prior to the industrial revolution? Requiring such craftsmanship, tiny intricate boxes were not something that everyone could afford. Boxes were crafted out of metal, whereas today we find them in all sorts of materials, shapes and sizes.

For any jewelry box or music box aficionados out there, do you know when or why a ballerina was added? I haven’t come across that information yet. Please share!

Miss Mary Mack & Miss Lucy

From the Chicago History Museum via The Library of Congress memory collection. Click for source.

From the Chicago History Museum via The Library of Congress memory collection. Click for source.

Does anyone remember hand rhymes & games from elementary school? You know, the kind you played in the schoolyard. Or maybe you sang them as jump-rope rhymes. My mother, sisters and I were recently discussing “Miss Mary Mack” and “Miss Lucy” and other rhymes. We couldn’t remember the words, so naturally we turned to Google. And wow, are there many crazy versions of these rhymes. We were all intrigued.

We could get as far as “Miss Lucy had a steamboat / the steamboat had a bell / Miss Lucy went to heaven / and the steamboat went to – / hello operator, give me number nine … ” and a few more verses. Remembering the appropriate hand motions was even more difficult. However, I have fond memories of standing in the kindergarten playground and playing these clapping games with my friends.

Recently I came across the British Library’s exhibit of “Playtimes: A Century of Children’s Games and Rhymes” (found via Playscapes) which has a section about clapping games. While traditions might vary from Britain to the United States, this exhibit reads (click to access videos of the games):

Clapping games continue to resonate across modern-day playgrounds. Although they have an earlier history, these games found real popularity in the 1960s, travelling to England from America and filling playgrounds across the country. They can be employed in a number of situations: to pass time while waiting in line, to play with a large circle of friends, or to keep your hands warm on a cold day. Enticingly, they offer the chance to demonstrate to your peers your ability to memorise and enact dazzlingly complicated rhythms and rhymes.  The songs vary in complexity, from basic songs such as ‘A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea’ to hybrid pastiches drawing upon established clapping songs, pop songs, TV shows and actions. The result is a fantastically varied genre of play in a constant state of transition.

Introduction by Michael Rosen.

What other games do you remember? Do you have good sources for reading about playground games? Much research has been completed on playground history and design, but the games that took place within these spaces is a topic just as important.

Summer Days

I remember cool summer mornings, waking up to hear my mom watering the garden or cutting cantaloupe in the kitchen, getting us girls ready for the day. We might be heading to the beach that day, which meant we were responsible for finding the pails & shovels, beach blankets, chairs and any other toys we wanted for the day. We’d spend all day at the beach, moving the blanket if the tide came too close, digging holes in the sand, getting covered with sand and salt water. On the way home, near the day’s end, we’d pass around what was left in the jug of lemonade and the bag of pretzels, enjoying our saltiness while Mom drove with the windows open and the radio playing. Or the day might call for staying home and playing the backyard, climbing trees and eating ice pops. Sometimes we’d head to the public library to return our books for new choices, adding to our summer reading program list. Summer evenings were filled with barbecues, gymnastics routines on the front lawn and often ice cream cones while we sat on the front stoop. You could say that we were living the ideal suburban childhood summer, no responsibilities but being a kid in the summertime.

Recently, I’m struck by how far away those childhood summers seem, and wondering what it could possibly feel like to have that again: the imagination of a child and the freedom of days without a to-do list. What wonderful memories; these are the kind that I would like to store in a box and revisit now and then, and maybe someday relive some of those stories.

How do you feel? You have all probably been working for years or decades, beginning as teenagers and continuing through college and now as adults. Summer is different now; generally calmer than other seasons, easier, adventurous. As adults we get to choose where we’ll spend the days and what we’ll do, perhaps visiting places we never did as a child, and trying new things. It’s a different kind of fun, but perhaps one that is easier to recall and store in our memories, since adulthood is longer than childhood.

So I ask, how do you keep your childhood memories dear? Have you written them or keep them only in your memory? Do you return to your childhood home? Perhaps you relive your childhood through your children. Or maybe every so often something triggers a memory that you didn’t remember. Maybe it’s a certain way the breeze feels, or the smell of low tide or seeing kids racing around the block on bicycles. Regardless of how often you think of your childhood summers, or how you choose to remember them, I hope they are thought of fondly.

For my sisters: the side beach in Point Lookout.

Old Memories, New Memories: The Evolution of My Favorite Place

I grew up in a beach town.  My mother pulled me in the wagon to the beach and we played on any sunny day in any season.  My father held me under a crashing wave before I knew how to swim.  My uncle taught me how to ride the waves (body surf) and I have a beautiful scar on my shoulder from that incident, getting trashed by the waves.  My cousin taught me what little I know about actual surfing.  My sisters and I lived for the beach.  I have salt water in my veins and salty air in my lungs.


As children we spent hours on the beach digging holes, just digging. Hands, shovels, buckets, shells: anything could become a useful digging tool. Our efforts often attracted jealous attention of nearby children who marveled at a hole so wide and deep that four sisters could sit comfortably.  We guarded our hole with pride and asked our parents to not let anyone cave it in while we ran to the water to rinse off our sandy bodies.  Waves kept us in the chilly water for hours at a time.  We ran along the breaking waves and turned cartwheels.  We rode wave after wave after wave, perfecting our body surfing techniques.  Sometimes the waves tossed and turned us under water, pulled us from the surface, and dropped us from our place on top with no warning.  The waves never scared us; we thrived on the excitement.  Our father and his brother stayed with us after the lifeguards had gone home at six.  We’d occasionally use a boogie board, but that never seemed as true as body surfing.  The afternoon and evening brought warm water and an easy sunny sky.


Now, years later, I do not live near the beach.  Here, it is hours to any beach and people take vacations to the beach.  I never fathomed such a thing.  I miss the beach and try to take my vacations in the summer to go home and return to the beach with my sisters.


Playtime on the beach is different.  We dig fewer holes and tolerate the cold water just slightly less than our younger selves.  We love the beauty of the sand and the ocean, but some things changes.  Recently, I have felt guilty and suddenly too old.  How could I not want to play like that 10 year old girl I used to be?  This is when I realized that our favorite places can evolve with ourselves.  My memories never leave; I love everything about the beach and the games my sisters and I would play. 


As we’ve grown, I’ve adapted myself to the beach. Instead of running from the beach blanket to the waves and back, I run miles on the beach.  On these miles, barefoot and in the water, I show my love for the beach.  There is no place I’d rather run and no place that I’m happier to run.  When I run on the beach, it feels like I’m playing.  They are always my favorite runs with stops in the middle to jump in the waves.  I’ve never appreciated cold water more than during a sunny run. 


Now I have a melding of my childhood and myself.  We still ride the waves and turn cartwheels and jump off lifeguard stands. Digging holes may have to wait another generation.  But, I have added an older version of myself and my activities to the beach.  Without this, the beach (or any favorite place) risks fading memories.  Every time I run I remember.  Every time I run on the beach I’m adding to those memories. 


Memory and use are funny things: combining them makes the place stronger and more meaningful.  People and communities should consider what they love (buildings, landscapes, open space, etc) and when it’s out of date, find new ways to keep the past and the present connected, assuring life for the future.  It’s the basic foundation for human existence; our memories, our lives, are connected by the past, present, and future.  We wouldn’t want to let any of that go, so why should we forget our surroundings?