Roxaboxen | Mark’s Remarks - Republic-Times | News

Roxaboxen | Mark’s Remarks

By on June 27, 2018 at 9:00 am

A dear friend recently brought my daughter some books, and one of them was the classic story Roxaboxen by Alice McLerren.

I had read the book long ago when I became a teacher but had lost my copy.  So, I was just as tickled to become acquainted with the story again as my daughter was.

Have you read it? I recommend it if you have children in your lives. Or even if you don’t.  Not only because it is a great story, but because it talks about a childhood past time that is rapidly becoming extinct: pretending.

In the story, a group of children get together and fashion a pretend city out of rocks, pretty glass bottles, and various odds and ends. They “build” their own houses by placing rocks in the shape of a floor plan. There are shops in the town. There are doors and walls, but only in the imagination of the children.

And it is a wonderful place.  The kids in the story are excited to go there and set about making memories that last into their adulthood. One of the adults, who later told her children about the place, said one only needed “A stick and an imagination to visit there.”

Years later when some of the children visited the place as adults, the rocks and remnants of the pretend village were still there, up on top of a place that was little more than a sandy and rocky hill behind the neighborhood. Yet, it remained a special place to all of them.

I still remember fondly many of the times our neighborhood kids would play together and have wonderful times pretending.

One summer, we had fantastic ball tournaments, keeping scores and stats for every kid, big or small, expert or novice.  One of the girls in our neighborhood stirred up Kool-Aid and another brought soda crackers. They set up a poor-man’s concession booth and “sold” drinks and crackers through a garage window as we competed in the tournament. We pretended we were great ballplayers.

We spent many hours raking up leaves and jumping in them, climbing trees and making roads in the driveway for our toy cars. I still contend that I could have gotten by just fine if the only toys I had in my childhood had been Matchbox cars and building blocks.

One of the best memories I have to this day was a time when some construction was going on in the neighborhood.  There had once been a grocery store one street over, and when I was very young, it had been a place neighbors could pick up a jug of milk or a carton of bottled soda.  In the early 1970s, it closed and someone bought it and did some work to the land surrounding it. Behind the old store were great piles of dirt.

There was no activity around the dirt piles for a good many days, so the neighborhood kids descended upon them with delight, Matchbox cars in tow.  We used rocks and carefully broken little twigs to build bridges and intricate roads over and around the dirt piles. And it was great fun. Our own little Roxaboxen.    

To our dismay, many days later, the workmen appeared and started digging around in our beloved piles of dirt. We had spent a good week-and-a -half playing there only to find our roadways destroyed. Ah, the disappointments of youth.

But it’s amazing to me how many of those “pretend” times still stick in my head, and I long for the days when kids spent more time pretending than they do today with a device in their hands.

I still remain optimistic for kids, and I do hope “pretend” makes a comeback.

Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.