Growing up I spent a lot of time with cousins on both sides of my family. From the traditional holiday gatherings to attending birthdays, ball games, school events and more, we found reasons to gather and play together.
My mother’s parents lived in Millard in a very small house where we gathered often. When the rooms were overfilled with adults, the kids - all 12 of us - would retreat to the even tinier upstairs rooms. We spent hours playing dress up, making sing-along recordings on the tape recorder and daring each other to open the door to the attic. The rooms were dark, musty and cluttered with furniture, but we played and played for hours.
The house still sits on the corner of a busy intersection, and when I drive to church on Sunday mornings, I pass by it and am often transported back to that moment of my childhood where playing and spending time with siblings and cousins was my main objective in life. I wonder who plays there now.
I just spent a long holiday weekend with my family. I am the second of four children, with two sisters and a brother. We all have families of our own and all live in Nebraska. Two of us live in Omaha, one in Lincoln and one five hours away on a farm in Keya Paha County. Our father lives in Lincoln, so we’re fortunate to spend a lot of time together. In fact, our family gathered for Thanksgiving and Christmas at our home in Omaha.
We have another “holiday tradition” that began 19 years ago at Mahoney State Park. Every January, on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day, we rent a giant six bedroom cabin and move in for four nights. Our children are now the cousins who look forward to this gathering and time to play together. We play cards, go ice-skating, tackle sledding when weather permits and hiking when there isn’t any snow. We eat all our meals together and we laugh a lot. It takes weeks of preparation by the adults to organize our weekend, we pack our cars, vans and suburbans to the brim with totes and boxes of food, clothing and supplies. The kids stay up later than they should, the adults even later and all of us end the weekend sleep deprived.
We love it so much that on Saturday each year, we invite friends and extended family to join us. People arrive all day long, mostly as strangers to each other, but somehow our friends make new friends and people leave hoping they’ll be invited back. It’s a simple formula on our part – fill dozens of crock pots with yummy dishes, put out a few deck of cards and arrange chairs for conversing – and the rest takes care of itself. The addition of friends, both young and old, adds more laughter and leads to an entire day of adults and children just hanging out and playing together. Perhaps my main objective of my youth has never left me or perhaps the pressures of living an adult life lead me back to this weekend each year anxious for it to start and never wanting to see it end.
I see Omaha Children’s Museum being a place that supports a child’s objective to hang out with others and get lost in the play of childhood. I invite the adults who find their way here to channel their inner childhood objectives and get lost in the magic of spending time with others, making new friends and enjoying the happy state of open-ended play.
About Lindy J. Hoyer
As executive Director of the Omaha Children’s Museum since June of 2002,
Lindy Hoyer brings 26 years of passion for reaching out to children
through children’s museum work and continues striving to inspire young
people to play, explore and
During Hoyer’s tenure as Executive Director, Omaha Children’s Museum has seen fantastic growth and accomplishment from hosting blockbuster traveling exhibits to completing a $6.6 million capital campaign and renovation of the museum’s permanent exhibits and seeing attendance soar to over 270,000 annually.
Hoyer participated in the inaugural Noyce Leadership Institute along with 17 science center executives from across the world. She has served on the board of directors for the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) and participates in Qm2 Roundtable for Museum Executives. Locally, Locally, she serves on the Omaha Sister City Association Board and
serves as a member of the Economic Development Commission for Nebraska.