Disheveled Theologian: Remember the days of your youth


The summer I was 10 years old — or I might have been only 9 — a friend of mine came to play once a week. Her father was building a house for a neighbor who lived about a quarter of a mile away, so he’d drop her off every Thursday morning and we’d play all day while my sister kept an eye on us.

My Fisher Price toys were a favorite. Often the farm animals romped outside the village and the green car drove to and fro from the yellow house to the castle and the wooden-bodied families went on trips in the camper or the houseboat or caught rides to school on the bus with the smiling, side-to-side glancing, bodiless driver.

Sometimes we’d play with Lego or Barbies or we’d swing on the swing that hung from the rafters in my bedroom. We listened to 45’s on my record player (“You’ll know it is time to turn the page when Tinkerbell rings her little bell, like this…”) or we’d play in the yard or go to the beach or walk down the road with my sister supervising, to visit her dad on the work site.

But one day — maybe it was raining, maybe we were whiny, maybe my sister was just inspired — we did something unique. It wasn’t expensive, this thing we did. Nor was it extravagant in any other way. It simply involved a large roll of paper — given for free to my dad by someone long forgotten — and a few crayons and a great deal of imagination.

“Let’s make a map,” my sister suggested, starting to unroll the gigantic roll of paper.

“A map?” I probably whined. “That sounds boring.”

“Not this map,” she insisted. “This is a map we will create, of a world we will invent, with sights and buildings and houses we can name anything we choose.”

My friend and I looked at each other, intrigued.

“What will call this place?” my friend asked.

“How about Millersville?” my sister replied.

She, bearing the surname Miller, was quite pleased. I, on the other hand, was not.

“What’s wrong with ‘Wendtville’?” I argued, knowing even as I said it that “Wendtville” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

“Nope,” my sister insisted. “It’s Millersville.”

“Fine then,” I said, starting to draw a road, “but the airport will be named after Dad.” And so the DKW Airport was born.

It went on from there, the town growing larger, incorporating apartment buildings and suburbs and roads large enough for Matchbox cars to cruise side-by-side. We drew and colored and named things for hours, and every Thursday after that, Millersville was the first thing to be pulled out when my friend walked through our door.

I don’t remember when we finally threw Millersville away — creased and yellowed and torn as it was — but I know it lived for several years, rolled up behind my bedroom door.

A few years ago I saw that friend of mine for the first time in a couple of decades. After exchanging hugs and meeting my kids, she turned to me and said, “Do you remember…” and I said, “Yes.”

It isn’t money that buys memories. It’s creativity. It’s emotion. It’s a bucket of crayons and a roll of butcher paper and a couple of friends on their hands and knees.

“You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.” Ecclesiastes 11:9

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is