I’m not sure when this photo was taken. 1977? 1978? I’m so bad at determining the ages of children younger than 10. I think I must be 2 or 3 years old here, right? I had a dream about this photo last night. Well, not about the photo itself, but about the scene it depicts. I remember that set of wooden building blocks so clearly. They were stained in primary colors, and the finish was translucent enough that you could make out the grain of the wood. The one with the arch in it was my favorite—you could use it to make tunnels or boats, depending on which way you turned it. I do remember feeling annoyed that the arch wasn’t tall enough to roll a Matchbox car underneath it, though.
I think my dream might have been induced by a conversation I had yesterday with a cousin I hadn’t seen more than 30 years. He said he remembered playing with toy cars with me on the living room carpet at my aunt and uncle’s house when I was 4 or 5 years old—he must have been in his late teens or early 20s at the time. Now I can’t get the feeling of sitting on the floor in that room out of my head…the soft greige color of the carpet, the fire burning nearby, Alice the dog looking on.
So much of my life has been spent on the floor. As the perpetual baby of the family—at least until my nieces and nephews came along—I was always relegated to sitting on the floor instead of getting a prime spot on the sofa. I don’t think I minded. On the floor you can stretch out your legs. You can crawl under the coffee table and make a little house. If there’s a dog or a cat around, you’re right at their level. You have infinite work space. You can play with your blocks, draw and watch “The Muppet Show,” all at the same time.
My love of working on the floor carried on into my teenage years, when my mother would ask with concern if I was going to hurt my back by sitting hunched over a notebook with my legs in a V-formation while I did my math homework. Desks were worthless for anything other than piling up papers. In college, I’d set up camp on the floor in a corner of the library with all of my books spread out around me when I needed to study for an exam. We had easels in figure drawing class, but even then I preferred to take floor position. It just felt better.
Now that I’m a Real Adult with a Real Job, I have to work at a desk. It’s still a little weird to me that I sit in a chair and wear shoes all day. I guess computers don’t translate to floor usage very well, do they? My back couldn’t handle it anyway.