Thursday, May 15, 2008


I just finished reading “Roxaboxen” to my children again. I’ve read it to them at least two times and it’s one of those books that you just have to read more than once. And a book that is interesting for mom…maybe more so for a mom – as it brings back memories of her own childhood. The author is Alice McLerran and the illustrator is another favorite of mine – Barbara Cooney.

Roxaboxen is based on a true story. A group of neighborhood children who, while living in Yuma, Arizona, built an imaginary play town out of rocks and boxes and spent many hours playing there. It’s just a sweet story of kids being kids and kids being kids without a lot of toy trappings. Back in the good old days when mom wasn’t the one making “playdates” for the kids – the kids were on their own, making their own friends, playing without supervision (shudder!). Back in the days when it still seemed like an OK thing to let your kids roam around throughout the day as long as they were back in time for meals.

Roxaboxen is a real place - the area the children used to play in is now a park named Roxaboxen. Here is some information from their website:

"Roxaboxen is located on the corner of 8th Street and 2nd Avenue in Yuma, Arizona. This unique Park memorializes the beloved and internationally known children's story entitled "Roxaboxen" by author Alice McLerran ... This true story is based on the adventures of the author's mother and fellow Roxaboxenites as they grew up in Yuma in the early part of the last century. These children created the make-believe town of "Roxaboxen" from rocks, boxes, and lots of imagination. Even today, you can find neighborhood children making little rock and box houses with imagination as their only mortar.

The Park has no grass, no swings, but remains much as it was, reflecting the time period of the story. Very simple benches are installed at the park...

The park held its grand opening in June 2000 with descendants of the original Roxaboxenites. The great-granddaughter of "little Jean" was on hand to cut the ribbon (with a little help from her Grandmother Francis and City of Yuma Councilman Frank Irr), and to "return" a rock that her great-grandmother had been saving for over 80 years..."

Kind of makes you want to head on over to Yuma doesn't it?

I had bought this book as a potential gift for someone but after reading it again to the kids, they encouraged me to keep it for them! Sure we can check it out from the library any time, but there are some books that we love so much we just want to have them around.

After reading the story I said to my kids “Do you know where I used to play when I was young?” Obviously I had told the story more than once because instantly my daughter said, “Play in a manhole.” – Well no that was not the place I was thinking of. “Play by the railroad tracks” she guessed again. This time correctly. I’m not sure whether or not my mom was aware of what us girls were up to – but I sure can’t imagine a parent allowing a girl about 8-10 to play on a railroad track near the highschool.

But we did. I don’t know if I played there with my sisters or with my friends. Probably my friends. Even though us girls were only one and two years apart (the older 3) – we had our own group of friends and usually that is who we were found in the company of. Why did we choose the railroad tracks to play? I think there was kind of a ditch next to it and I guess that seemed to work well as a “house”. Also it was out behind the highschool so it was also somewhat secluded, so we could feel more independent being “so far” from our homes.

Playing down in a manhole??? There was a new subdivision being built behind our street. Open fields and deserted areas equaled a fun place to play. Someone found a manhole – don’t know if the cover was off or if we removed it. This time it was with my sisters and some of their friends. They tried to convince me that they or I could call through the tunnel at the bottom and end up on our street. Thankfully no one was stupid enough to try that!

I’m amazed how even though my kids have bedrooms to themselves (something I rarely had growing up with 5 kids in the family) – they still try to figure out some other place inside our small dwelling to find and make a “club house”. They want some private space of their own. But nothing so boring and ordinary as their own bedroom that is actually brightly lit, comfortable, filled with books and toys and has a door. No they want a place like the cubby hole under the basement stairs…dark, damp, easy to bump your head, no furniture – except for empty boxes – and only centipedes, spiders or other creepy crawlies as company.

Did you have your own "Roxaboxen" place growing up? A place away from everyone else where you could play and imagine to your heart's desire?


Heather said...

Oh absolutely and I MUST get that book!

I had my own place out in the 13 acres of woods, my kids have theirs down in our apple trees or their closets. :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book. My brothers and I had outdoor forts as well as an inside clubhouse in the crawlspace under the stairs. Bugs were definitely involved where ever we went.

Anonymous said...

As a child my Dad used to build us snow forts and in the summer I spent time in my grandmother's old "summer kitchen" and her attic which could only be reached from the outside. I loved it !