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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sticks and Stones

By Diane Johnson who blogs at Snowbirdredux

It’s a tricky thing to accuse kids today. But every generation does it. We always harken back to our youth and reminisce about how much better it was in the old days. For example, “Radio made us think and use our imagination. TV has rotted our brains.” Or, “We used to play outside and make up games. Now they sit transfixed before a computer screen.” It’s always something.

Tonight at dinner my husband and I were talking about the “old days.” Kick the Can and so forth.

As a girl, I played jacks. Not at a champion level, but it was fun. Onesees, twosees, kissees. Kissees were when two jacks touched and there were maneuverable rules about the pick up.

If I close my eyes I’m still sitting on the edge of the Burgess’s porch feeling the sun on my back and the roughness of the concrete. I did hop-scotch too. But not with the enthusiasm of a winner. I mainly loved the chalk patterns on the sidewalk which seemed runic and metaphysical long before I knew what that meant and years before I became a folklore and mythology major.

But there were two games I particularly loved.

One we called set em up and sly em down. Or maybe it was hit em up? It consisted of a batter, a pitcher and however many others down the field.

The pitcher would throw the ball, the batter would hopefully hit it and whoever intercepted the ball would then win and be up if he caught a fly or roll it towards the batter who had laid his bat down. The batter would try to catch the ball as it hit and bounced. If not, he was out and the thrower/roller was up. I think I was seven then.

I can’t believe that we played this game in our narrow driveway and not upon a field. Any miss-hit would undoubtedly have sent the ball crashing through our dining room windows.

But my favorite game was statue maker. It consisted of one person holding someone’s hand and swinging the other around and around until they were let go and swung out to land in a position and freeze.

The swinger would then shout, “statue maker,” and the one who was swung would mime and enact who they were. Whoever guessed right took their place. This was likely a precursor to the method school of acting, based on Stanislavski and propagated by Lee Strasberg. No wonder I also became a theater major for a time.

We had neighborhood gangs who concocted exotic magic potions in the vacant lot. And wrote and performed backyard shows for our family and friends. Our imagination was usually on overdrive and I admit that I wonder about the progeny today.

I know that if I had a young child, I would seriously limit the time allowed to stare at an increasingly smaller and smaller screen while thumping away with two thumbs. What of their literary skills? “har har r u ok.” My grandsons and the children of my cousins write in abbreviated geek-speak on Facebook. What are they talking about? I thought that LOL meant “little old lady.” No, that’s me.

It seems that there must always and ever be a shifting perspective in our creative world. How else could it be that Chet Baker seemed divine to my thinking (and girlish heart) when my mom called him “noise” and clung to Harry James.

And then my generation came along scratching their heads at the current Grammy winners wondering who in the devil they are and beyond that, why?

It’s just possible that this techno-geek generation is on to something I couldn’t possibly grasp. They may be riffing on creative brain waves far beyond my imagination. And just because it’s not done with balls and chalk and twirling doesn’t mean that it’s not stimulating and provocative.

But go outside and play!


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Well done.
Many years ago, a young reporter asked Helen Hayes how things were on the "good old days," when she first broke into acting.
"The good old days," she said, "were when I had a permanent stiff neck from looking at the pavement on Broadway to avoid stepping in the horse manure as I crossed the street."

That's "in" the good old days. Pardon the typo.

Thank you so for this.

Fond memories. I had not thought of Jacks for years. Played a lot of hop scotch and jumped a lot of double Dutch rope. Ditto to the small screen addiction taking over the life of our young people. My grandchildren have fallen prey to the video game madness. Never my 3-year-old prefers playing games on the computer than the board games I so loved as a child. Believe it or not she loves coloring on the computer rather than with crayons in a coloring book. Are we losing our childhood play traditions." I hope not.

Your story led me to think of our current society. Lately, I have been a little "under-the-weather" and being tired of the same old news and not feeling like reading, I started watching movies. I guess my age shows because I got bored with the same old plots and never finished watching a single movie. I asked myself where can we find a movie with a new creative plot without explicit sex,a discarded lover,car racing and killing. I suppose the reality shows are the answer to our current generation.

By the way, I used to think LOL meant lots of love.

Very nice vignette Diane. I read someplace that the "texting" abbreviations are starting to show up in high school and college papers. Your advice is sagacious and well-taken; "Go outside and play." Thanks for posting this nice piece.

Diane, I'm so glad you followed up and submitted to writing for this site. I knew you'd fit right in. I don't recognize some of the games you played, but I was surprised when interviewing my father that he played games that I never heard of at all. One included using two sticks to hit one up in the air and not let it hit the earth! I think kids find what they can use in order to have fun, as is shown in war torn regions where all toys are destroyed. Kids find cans and play soccer, make dolls out of old rags, (remember corn cob dolls?) and play hide and seek anywhere. People all have a need to play, even today with the fancy stuff. But mark my words. If all the electronics died tomorrow, after two days they would quit whining and you'd find them playing without a second thought.

Your story brought many fond memories of playing kick the can in the alley behind our house. Because it was paved we also roller skated up and down. Those days are gone, but who is to say tomorrow won't be not only different, but maybe better in many ways.

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