The onset of summer vacation whisks me back to the glorious days of the neighborhood gang and makes me wonder how we survived our entire childhood with all of the risky, dangerous, and terrifying activities that we accomplished every single day.
There were the usual suspects: drinking from the garden hose, purchasing ice cream from a semi-shady salesman in a musical truck, staying out past dark, riding bikes down the big hill with no hands. These things have their own dangerous elements; we could have easily been poisoned, kidnapped, and road-rashed from head to toe.
But there were other activities that could be considered equally hazardous to our health, although at the time we didn’t think there was anything wrong with them, nor did our parents. In fact, our parents encouraged us to participate in these potentially scarring activities. We called them “games.” And nowadays, I can’t imagine these games being age appropriate, let alone child friendly.
Everyone loved a good game of Red Rover. We would stand in a line and link hands, attempting a bond stronger than steel. “Red Rover, Red Rover, let [the smallest weakest person] come over!” And someone would run full speed and get the wind knocked out of them as they crashed into the opposing team. I honestly don’t find it surprising that this game has been outlawed by many schools and parents.
But my most favorite game of all was one that, as a parent, seems so demonic that I can’t help but chuckle when I think about the whole convoluted storyline that essentially went into a game of tag. Witch in the Well. First of all, the “father” of the game leaves the children for days to go downtown and smoke a pipe, and tells them not to get into the jelly or jam (or whatever your version might have been.) The kids get hungry and eventually start to make PBJ sandwiches at the wrong time, because dad comes home from his days of pipe smoking and finds them with dirty hands. He then tells them to go wash their hands in the well, where as you might imagine, there is a witch. And the witch isn’t doing normal witch things like making a potion or using brewing a cauldron of newt eyes. She herself is also smoking a pipe! Her object is not to intoxicate herself like good ol’ dad, instead she wants to make ashes to sharpen her knife because she wants to kill the children. After all of this drama, the whole thing just ends in tag.
These perilous games were unsupervised, unrated, unpredictable, and unbelievably fun. How we made it all the way to adulthood, I’ll never know.
Originally written 5.22.16