Before I get into this, let me give you the backstory.
I have never been a kid person. As my biological clock ticked toward 40, I carefully considered childbearing and realized I had never had the overwhelming desire that apparently comes naturally to most women.
Maybe I'm missing the mommy gene (she shrugged).
Children, I think, are kinda cute but only in short bursts and only for as long as they are clean and well behaved which for me means relatively still and not loud. I cannot stand that high-pitched screeching noise they – mostly little girls – make.
Further, even if they meet my kid criteria, I have no idea what to say to them. I mean, the weather probably wouldn't be as reliable an ice breaker as it can be with adults and I don't know what interests children.
So it's hard to figure what possessed me agree to attend a “Board Games and Brownies” event last Monday at which some old people would play games with nine-year-old Girl Scouts who had baked the treats themselves. Oy.
I was a few minutes early, checking blog comments on my phone when, at the appointed hour, a gaggle of chattering little girls burst into the room.
Immediately, a bunch of them surrounded my chair. One announced, “Hi, I'm Sophia,” and we shook hands as I told her my name.
Thus we proceeded through 10 or 12 little girls - Mary, Hayden, Selina, Pam, Casey, etc. (Most names invented due to short-term memory lapses on my part.) Toward the end of the formal greetings I heard again, “Hi, I'm Sophia.”
“Didn't you and I already do this ritual?” I asked her.
“Just being sure,” said Sophia with a mischievous grin, and we all – the whole gaggle and I who had been quite serious until that moment - burst out laughing.
Three or four of the girls, including Sophia, and I found a table and they selected a game – Hed Banz – which, I quickly learned, is a form of 20 questions. There are plastic head bands into which cards are placed so that the wearers can't see what image is on the card.
Then, each in her turn, asks yes and no questions to figure out what she is. Nevermind. Here's a short video that explains it better than my long-winded description would.
It's a much more fun and funny game than that video indicates, particularly when everyone talks at once, no one keeps score, no one cares about rules and couple of players insist on giving easy-to-guess clues – all with great, good humor.
When it took too long for someone to work out the answer, the remaining crew got frustrated. In one set, when a girl couldn't come up with “Am I a hammer?” after 20-odd questions, the player who gave away the answer most often just mimed pounding a hammer on the table so the game could move on. And we all laughed again.
Sometimes we had to debate the correct answer - all talking on top of each another, of course. We took a good deal of time working out whether ketchup is a vegetable. (No, I didn't lecture them about the U.S Department of Agriculture, President Ronald Reagan and the school lunch program controversy over that very question in 1980.)
And you probably didn't know that it takes a good deal of discussion to decide if a fly is an animal. You would be amazed how serious a group of nine-year-olds can be about such questions although giggles are big part of it too.
After several rounds of this hilarity, another Girl Scout arrived pushing a trolley with about a dozen kinds of brownies to choose from. I asked who at our table had baked which ones and of course, chose those that my game mates had brought.
You can guess what happened next. It wasn't long before sugar shock sent the volume of 12 little girls' voices (and mine) through the roof.
You'd think we were all drunk. The game got louder and sillier and, apparently, the noise from our group was drawing enough attention that some of the other sugar-charged kids wanted to join us.
Our table swelled to about eight or nine trying to play. We ran out of head bands (hed banz) so they used their hair clips (clever of them) to attach the cards to their hair.
The combination of sugar highs and too many kids (plus one elder) squeezed together at a small table turned the game to chaos – not that we cared. We were just as high on one another, on our own silliness and having a grand ol' time. And a big plus for me was that for all the noise, these kids weren't doing that awful screechy thing I don't like.
So it might have gone for another hour or two but mothers started arriving to pick up their children. The girls and I traded lots of hugs and high fives over what a good time we'd had together.
Don't get me wrong; I won't be running a play center any time soon. But I will attend the next kid/elder event - with eagerness.
I wish more old people would do that. Although the announcement of the event went to a lot of people, only about four other elders turned up and that's a shame.
What an interesting surprise for me to find that I could effortlessly lose myself for two hours with a bunch of nine-year-olds - finding my own nine-year-old self as though 63 years had not gone by since I was that age.
If you get such an invitation, don't let it pass you by.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: The Girl Who Got Away