Ring Around The Rosie, A Tisket, A Tasket, and Farmer in The Dell…how
the voices echo in my mind from Kindergarten, First and Second Grade.
All the words and actions are still there, just like yesterday. Then suddenly
by Fifth Grade we were learning the Virginia Reel and Square Dancing and
socializing with clod footed boys that stuck their tongues out at us at
Doing The Maypole Dance, every spring, twisting and turning the long,
crepe paper streamers around the flagpole on the playground and mother’s
coming to watch, so proud of their children’s talent at braiding the brightly
colored ribbons so adeptly around the pole.
By Sixth Grade we were kicking a basketball around in circles and sometimes
kicking one another. We called it Dodge Ball and we were on the edge
of puberty, acting out aggressions long hidden in the classroom.
But on rainy days we played Simon Sez and Musical Chairs inside the
classroom, pushing back the oak desks a few rows to make room, when we
couldn’t play on the school yard.
Then on winter nights we might play Pick Up Sticks, Bingo or Old Maid,
Checkers, or if there was time, a rip snortin’ game of Monopoly, learning
the ins and outs of real estate purchases as we aced our friends into the
poor house, breaking their bank and all the time gloating over having the
good sense to purchase Boardwalk and Park Place early in the game!
Summer nights found us in the middle of the street, way after dark,
playing Kick the Can under the dim light of the street lamp. I can
feel the back of my dress clinging to my skinny shoulder blades as I worked
up a sweat, kicking that can further and further ... away from the light,
into the scary shadows of the night. How brave I felt.
Playing. Playing. Playing.
No television to scatter us to the sofa in the parlor to sit in the
dark and grow soft, our shoulders slumped forward and our tummies popped
out. No, we played until our bodies were worn out and we were happy
to be called in for a bath and bedtime. Nobody was subtly trying
to mold our soft little minds into silly putty. No computer games
of Doom stealing away the innocence of childhood and programming minds
We played hard! We played long! We forgot we were poor and
sometimes hungry, and certainly not clothed to an inch of our lives.
Brand names were unheard of unless the ‘marker’ showed through on the flour
sack material that my Grandma made my dresses from. We forgot that
our teeth protruded and we smiled anyway because we did not know better,
because we had that good old American ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’
moxy that we learned going through hard times.
We didn’t know then that the lessons learned through the Dirty Thirties
were building character in us. Or that we would always know the value
of a dime and a dollar. We weren’t aware that doing the flag salute
every day and singing the Star Spangled Banner were teaching us to be patriotic
and would help us win a war. We didn’t know that seeing the Constitution
and the 10 Commandments on the schoolroom wall caused them to become forever
etched on our memory.
We just kept playing our hearts out, hollering ‘Olli Olli Ox In Free’,
knowing that someday, we would have to be grown-ups like our parents, washing
dishes, doing laundry, mowing lawns, going to work, raising children and
We kept playing games as long as we could, because we knew in our hearts
that we couldn’t be children forever.
Perhaps I have kept them all so fresh in my mind by playing them over
again. First with my children, then with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren!
Oh, the games people play!