I almost cried was I read “Roxaboxen”, written by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It was such a sweet story and reminded me of my own childhood play with friends.
In the back of the book, the background behind the story the author shared that it came from her mother’s childhood. She did research from relatives, former residents and childhood papers. It was located to be at Second Avenue and Eighth Street in Yuma, Arizona.
As a new resident of Yuma, I had to see the site as well. Sure enough, it’s there and has been preserved as a neighborhood historical site. It wouldn’t mean much to you if you hadn’t read the book once you have, you can envision children at play. It is a rugged hill with just a bunch of boulders and rocks. A sidewalk, benches and sign have been added.
In the story, children built a town using smooth rocks and colored glass. They elected a mayor. Sticks became horses to ride. They had Wild West adventures. They pretended there was a river. Rocks became play money for currency used in pretend stores made from old wooden crates. They made a graveyard for lizard. They sucked honey from Ocotillo blossoms.
One gray-haired man recalled fond memories as he picked up a rock on a beach. Fifty years later, the woman who the story was about returned and found the rocks still there.
When I went to see the site, I didn’t see a chassis, graveyard or wooden crates. I did see the rocks and outlines of the towns in the story. The area is a low-income, industrial, run down one. Yuma is a true old west town. It is being developed and snow birds inhabit the Foothills area but it is still open enough to appreciate the history behind it. You can see mountains all around for miles.
As I recall my own childhood adventures, I can envision these children at play. They would not have been wealthy. They remind me of “The Little Rascals” that we emulated. They also remind me of “Peter Pan”.
Children are the same from generation to generation, worldwide. There is an innocence in childhood that we lose as adults but is always there for us to draw from when we are ready to return to it. In this case, it is fortunate for us that it has been preserved. I plan on reading the story to my grandchildren and taking them to the site when they are a little older.