Opinion: Barn door backboards

As a kid growing up in rural northern Indiana, much of our family’s entertainment consisted of visits with the array of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, scattered across the county. We’d go to dinner, or just stop by, and always had a good time. To me, with only one sibling 11 years younger, it was fun to have playmates closer to my own age. The adults would be in good spirits from a bit of euchre.

In the summer as night would wane, Dad would beckon across the barnyard to come wash-up before we’d head home for the night. Naturally, we kids would delay, playing one more game of horse against the barn door backboard. But eventually, time would run out and we’d be collected, scrubbed and loaded for the short trip home.

But winter, particularly the most chilling February nights, would be more of an ordeal. Since we’d mostly stay indoors, we’d be easier for our parents to coral. They’d march us to the kitchen door, where our boots, mittens, coats, scarves and hats had landed in a glorious heap following our failed attempt to build the “world’s biggest snowman.” Once sorted, we’d be bundled as if the trip was by dogsled via the Iditarod rather than by Pontiac via a few miles on U.S. 24. Then, we’d stand awaiting the adults to make their final goodbyes. And, we’d stand some more. Each hug, laugh and final story was exponentially increased by the number of grown-ups and their years of association. Eventually, even as our rubber boots were filling with perspiration, the car would be deemed warm enough and off we’d go – safe and snug on a cold, dark night. As a child, I thought the delay was an interruption; but now, I see that it was a part of the journey.