The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 25, 2014

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A rainy night in Georgia…

…and the Carolinas, and New York, and Vermont.  In recent weeks, the eastern seaboard experienced storms of monumental proportions and frequency. Records were set for rainfall amounts, consecutive days with rain and storm intensity.

Though we all agree we need rain to sustain the earth - and ourselves - when the weather turns frightful it does impact our activities, especially outdoor ones. Baseball games get cancelled, the parks stay empty and the movie theatres stay full. Retail sales rise and most indoor venues have crowds.

As a kid, the majority of my play time was spent outdoors. In the summer, you left the house early in the morning and often didn't return until dinner. If you got thirsty, you took a drink from the garden hose. It only took one declaration of "in or out" from mom to understand if you re-entered the house, you might not be going out again.

But when it rained, we had to find things to do indoors. Sometimes it was with friends, sometimes alone. I have vivid memories of some of my favorite rainy day activities.

Barbie Dolls
Our Barbie gatherings were epic. Every girl in our neighborhood had at least one Barbie, though most of us had multiple versions of the doll. The original Barbie had the long pony-tailed hair and came in blond or brunette. Later on, the hipper Barbie appeared with a short, platinum bubble cut. I think this was when I got the stewardess outfit - one of my favorites. Then there was Ken, Alan, Midge and Skipper - Barbie's little sister.

Once we determined whose mom was willing to let us converge on their house, we packed our gear and walked down the block. We each had a Barbie carrying case. Some had the single doll version while others had the larger valise that held multiple dolls and scads of outfits, all hung on those little plastic hangers. There were slide out drawers for the shoes and accessories. All the shoes were a slip-on high heel since Barbie's foot was in a permanently pointed position. She even wore heels to the beach.

During the Barbie outing, there would always be at least one wedding. The Barbie wedding dress was the ultimate outfit and was typically given as a special birthday or Christmas gift. All of us girls were mesmerized by the commercials for the Barbie Dream House, but no one in my neighborhood ever got one. That was out of our blue-collar price range. We made our own Barbie houses out of boxes.

Jigsaw Puzzles
You could always count on a puzzle marathon at the Van Cott's house. Mrs. V. was a puzzle fiend and one was always in progress on the dining room table. Mr. V. fashioned a piece of plywood so the puzzle could be mobilized at meal times. Their basement held shelves stacked with puzzles with pieces numbering from 500 to 2000. Mrs. V. taught all the neighborhood kids the tricks of putting together a puzzle starting with pulling all the edge pieces, creating the border and then sorting the remaining pieces into like colors.

Board Games
On a rainy day, you needed a game that took a few hours to complete. Monopoly and Risk were excellent choices. In fact, a really good game of Risk could span a few days. As I think back on it, I wonder if our idiosyncratic methods of playing were signs of habits we would carry into adulthood. Take Monopoly money. Some of us separated it into denominations and carefully tucked the piles under the game board. Others held the entire wad of cash in their hands, peeling off bills as they landed on someone else's rental property. Some hid larger bills feigning poverty until they landed on Boardwalk and hastily produced the cash for the lucky buy.

Once my mother trusted me with the task of igniting the gas pilot light, baking opened up a whole new world. My girlfriends and I would find a recipe and then raid our respective pantries trying to complete the ingredients list. Nestle Toll House cookies was the clear favorite.

I could lay on the floor for hours, my head between the stereo speakers. Bob Dylan, Chicago Transit Authority, Led Zeppelin, The Mamas and Papas, and every Beatles album ever recorded.

Rainy days are different as an adult. Always fearful of wasting time, it is a day to clean closets, do laundry, pay bills, balance the checkbook and simply catch up. Of course with 15 days in a row of rain, even those tasks can run out. If this weather keeps up, I just may raid the attic and bring down my daughters' Barbie Dream House.

Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times. She can be reached directly at