Playing With Marbles; A Writer’s Imagination

I still have all my marbles. I know, because they’re in two jars sitting in a box somewhere in what I refer to as my storage room. (Read; a room I should be sleeping in that, instead, houses my ‘stuff’.)

ethan holmes marbles

These marbles of mine have so much more than sentimental value to me. I’ve had them for way too many years, although, if you asked my mother when I was a kid, she would have argued the point.

“Have you lost your marbles?”

She would ask me that every time I did something she thought was strange or unusual. (That happened a lot.)

The marbles are important to me because they were, in part, a tremendous stimulation for an already wild and vivid imagination.

We were dirt poor. In fact, we often couldn’t afford dirt and when we could, we had to add it to government-issue spam and cheese just to make the whole thing palatable.

Because of this, I did not have many toys; at least not what most kids call toys. I had a small pink handball and a piece of a broomstick from a broom my mother broke over my head. ( I think she figured if she hit me with the broom it would somehow bring my marbles back.) Playing stick-ball in the alley with those made me the hitter I am today.

I had an old board game missing half the pieces. It’s really hard to play Monopoly when you have to buy marbles instead of houses and hotels to put on your property. They keep rolling away. (Perhaps that was the precursor to mobile homes.)

I had baseball cards too. I used to play a game with my friends at school. We flipped a single card against a wall eight to ten feet away. Whoever topped that card with another flipped card won the whole pot, no matter how few or many. Sometimes you ended up with three cards, sometimes you won a hundred or more. Leaners were worth double. I ended up with a lot of baseball cards, many of which would have been worth a fortune today if I hadn’t been so busy banging them against walls. (Collectors don’t like banged up cards.)

And then there were my beloved marbles. I could do anything with those things. I would spill them out on the floor and the next thing you know, I would be fully immersed in some battle with Napoleon, complete with drawn up regiments and divisions of fighting men. Sometimes I would hand pick twenty two of my absolute favorites and re-play a recent football game and make it end the way I wanted. Other times I would play soccer, baseball or construct my own galaxy complete with visiting aliens. (Somehow I would always have beer and coffee on hand despite the fact that I was seven.)

My marbles were the stimulus for an imagination that stirs and feeds the writer within. Playing with those things made me think, causing me to create whole, detailed scenarios in my head. I made up characters or used what I soaked up in my sharp hunger and fascination for history. (Although, I could still slap my teachers upside the head for teaching me that some lost Italian guy ‘discovered’ America.) I also fed my imagination with voracious reading of authors like Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Often it is the simplest things in our lives that have the most meaning. For me, it was those marbles. I played with them well into my teens which made some of my friends and family firmly believe I would never grow up. (Hopefully, I didn’t.) I think at least some of them thought I needed some deep psychological analysis, which is sometimes the reaction I get from my writing.

Today, kids have ‘smartphones’ which are often ‘smarter’ than the kids using them. They have Playstation, Xbox, Gameboy and a whole bunch of other stuff that does absolutely nothing to stimulate their own imagination. Let the phone do all the work while they play Angry Birds.

I am grateful that I had my marbles. I am grateful that I still have them. Hopefully I can hang on to them for a long time. After I’m gone, they probably won’t mean a thing to anyone else. They’ll probably sell the two jars to someone at a garage sale for fifty cents. They were, and are, worth so much more to me.

Ethan Holmes’ marbles have produced five books so far; Earth’s Blood, The Keystone, Shorts and Other Laundry, A Multi-Pack of Brain Flakes and his latest release, Live Your Life In A Crap Free Zone.

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About Ethan Holmes

Ethan Holmes currently resides in Northern Arizona and he is the author of seven published books; Earth's Blood, The Keystone, A Multi-Pack of Brain Flakes, Shorts and Other Laundry, Live Your Life In A Crap Free Zone, Water. and his new novella, The Town of Perfect. When he is not writing Ethan is also a professional freelance nature photographer.
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