Monday, December 5, 2011

Ball Pit Joy

I packed up the girls' Ball Pit today; rescuing it from its dreary resting place in our attic, and sending it forth to an exciting new life in the land of Younger Cousins. If toys can have feelings, I believe I sensed a sigh of anticipation wafting off that carrying bag. An air of excitement for being played with once more.

Ball Pits. You know, if ever a toy had been the embodiment of a past childhood memory, I think this would be it. How great are ball pits? Either you've had a grand experience with them, and thus want to recreate it with your children, or you've been deprived and seek to save your own offspring from a similarly dire fate.

My situation was the former. Glorious memories of Ball Zone Happiness abound in my mind's eye. Having children was like a green light for trying to relive those days of yore and not seeming to be completely and utterly insane along the way.

When I was a kiddo, knee high and a bouncy, happy little mite, my favorite place in the entire world was Cedar Point. More specifically, I adored a long gone treasure inside Cedar Point called King Arthur's Court. Anyone else remember this? It still semi exists today as Kiddie Kingdom, but it's been upgraded to a mass of Snoopy inspired rides and games. But back in the day, it was  home to Ball Pit glory. There were two different ball pits to choose from. There was a little kid pit where in the average 4 year old could pounce about under the watchful eye of the parent, completely seen and observed. And then there was what I adoringly called The Big Kid Pit. This pit was bigger. It was deeper. In this pit, it was possible, should one desire it, to disappear completely in a sea of multi-colored bliss.

How I loved that Big Kid Pit. I eagerly awaited the growth spurt that would graduate me from the little kiddy pit to the place Where The Big Kids Play. And when my head at last tipped the measuring line and I was finally able to take that first joyful leap at the sound of the whistle, oh how tremendous it was. Just as I had hoped.

For 5-7 minutes it was just me, and 9 of my closest non-acquaintances, and what had to be a squajillion multi-colored, hollow balls. I remember the sound of them all; the bumping of the ones nearest to me, and the overall rumbling of that huge mass all moving as one. I remember that odd feeling of being suspended if I held still, supported by a solid rainbow; and the fluidity I felt while running straight ahead, launching myself and crashing down on a prismatic sea. There was, of course, the Other Child Hazard that always loomed; that risk of either smashing into a hidden person who chose to slink in the under layers of the balls, or to be smashed upon as you lay semi-covered and an eager leaper launched himself onto your person. But as with most of the happy games of childhood, I was fairly oblvious to the danger and just had fun anyway.

And of course the bacteria. (You know I was going to go there eventually). Can you even imagine how disgustingly microbial coated those things were? What if some kid dropped a number 2 in there?? You know it happened. Had to have. So what did they do? Did someone go in there with a rag and wipe each of the bazillion balls down with bleach? One by one? Was there some vacuum operation that sucked all the bacteria out of the entire area? I think no.
I shudder.

But of course, as a child I cared not for worries of germicidal nature. I just saw a Pit of Joy. End of story. From whistle blow to whistle blow, I was carefree and loving every micro second of it. After my turn had ended, I remember begging my parents to let me wait out the line again. Back in those days, it was actually safe for them to leave me there while they went on with my much more adventurous brothers, getting them on and off the (gulp) roller coasters and coming back for me shortly after.

Flash forward 20 years or so, and enter two little girls and a first birthday party that we weren't sure we'd even get to have for them. What better gift to celebrate the smoothing out of what had been a rocky start and usher in the start of childhood then with the hero of my OWN childhood?? Hello, Ball Pit Ball Zone. You rock.

They loved it. I loved it.

Did it recreate my joyful memories of Kiddy Land? Nah, not really. (We were short several squillion balls, it turned out). But it sure was a blast playing with them and watching them have a blast in it. And now that they've completely outgrown it, it's a pretty awesome thing to be able to move it on to a new group of kiddos to enjoy as well.

Memories are good.
Seeing your children get a glimpse of those same memories is even better.

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