As a teenager, my summer holidays had just about everything you could wish for, but looking back on it my most treasured possession was something we did not have.
Most Asians tend to imagine that “New York” is little more than the bustling crowds of Gotham City itself. In fact, the City only occupies a small corner of New York State. Towards its northern border is the sprawling State park – a forest 34 times larger than the land area of Singapore. It was big enough to lose yourself in and I did (once disappearing for a day and a night by foolishly hiking off the marked trails).
For an adventurous teenager it had just about every sports activity you could imagine: swimming, rowing, mount-climbing and hiking. However, in the 1980s, its remoteness gave it an added attraction. Television signals were reduced to a pointlessly fuzzy blur. Even a tube-addicted youngster like me was forced to read books, write, and actually talk to family members. We had a family tradition of eating a real sit down meal at a large dining table. My father had an endless supply of word games and historical quizzes up his sleeve so (amazingly) the conversation never really dried up.
After dinner we would play yet more games around an enormous stone fireplace. Charades were a common choice. My father once became a family legend by trying to communicate the film title “Love is a many splendid thing”. This involved trying to pitch the word “love” by embracing a particularly conservative aunt, which involved an athletic chase around the living room. For younger kids we had “Pictionary” which involved drawing. There were guessing games like Taboo ™ which still exists and even now has a Singapore version (complete with a few homegrown Singlish terms).
When I turned 18 or 19, I noticed that some of the teenagers who lived on the same lake would drive off to the bars in the local town at night. Though this was an option for me, I honestly had a better time playing games with my parents and grandparents. This may make me sound like someone unable to launch out on my own, but the truth was my family put on a pretty good show. They were truly Olympic in their skill at organizing homegrown entertainment. In a sense, games were my father’s full time job. His name was Alan Truscott and many older Americans tell me they remember him writing a column about the card game, Bridge, for the New York Times. I never inherited the family’s Bridge-mania but the many other games seemed equally attractive.
Sadly, the 1990s brought cable television and there was a significant decline in games playing. By 2005, the adults would routinely have CNN or a similar channel playing in the living room and the kids segregated themselves into the kitchen to watch Cartoon Network.
As I walk to the front door of my HDB flat, it’s hard not to notice a similar pattern because most of my neighbors have living rooms open to the landing. People sit glued to sofas entranced by non-stop broadcasting. I can’t help feeling that as the screens have grown bigger our lives have shrunk.
If I am blessed with children, I certainly want to re-create some of the magic of those golden summers. I may not be able to afford a house by a lake, but I can certainly afford to use the “off” switch.
This week’s post is written by our guest blogger, Philip Truscott (aka Dr. T), who
is … trying to swim one mile in under 30 minutes, teach interactively in new ways, be a good husband in spite of severe absent-mindedness!
at age 5, dreamt of … being an astronaut
can be found … running along the Punggol river
believes … in the last page of the Narnia book series