The Games We Played
Sitting in the sun yesterday, late afternoon, reading and daydreaming, I began to think of the games we played as kids. The names of the games began to come to me, so many of them, and the poem followed. But, as I wrote I began to think how each of us children must have viewed these games, some with joy, but some must have had other feelings. I tried to catch both sides of it, the joy and the other.
The games we played as kids,
we boys and girls, played
while parents worked or were at home,
were played for the fun of it, because we could.
In my world, narrow and suburban,
friends were as brothers and sisters,
we knew each other intimately,
traits and ability were accepted as fact.
Some played baseball in spring, football
in fall, come winter skated, or tried,
imitating big brothers and sisters, built snowmen,
threw snowballs, got hit by snowballs.
Could not hit a ball, did not want to?
Could not skate, preferred a book or solitude?
Metal-braced from polio, as some still were?
It mattered not a whit, we did not care.
Did not care if a girl was batting,
if a boy stayed inside preferring the library,
if the violinists practiced,
one way or another—we were all in it together.
But the games we played outside were grand:
Kick the Can and Capture the Flag,
Red Rover and Sioux-Pawnee;
all knew of kites and swings and jungle-gyms.
We played sky-tag, four-square, kick-ball,
shot hoops, played HORSE, raced one-another,
tested one-another at mumbly-peg,
or simply skipped, larked, or read a book.
We jumped-rope, twirled Double Dutch
while chanting rhymes, played hopscotch
and jacks; girls hung by their knees on monkey-bars
while skirted, maintaining modesty.
None of this was planned, we came together
with mitts or skates, or nothing more
than Sugar-Smacked energy,
and played, no one had to teach us.
Sometimes all it took was a rubber ball
and wall, a tree to climb, a puddle to splash,
sometimes the game was no game,
but a giddy sense of time and freedom.
Games were played before school, early,
after school, late, in the park on Saturdays,
and on the streets come evening
for keep-away, SPUD, or roller-skates.
Alone or together, we learned
how to be part of a group, learned
how to stand alone, to be outside of a group,
to win and fail, to care and not to care.
There were fights and tears, feelings
were hurt, there were cheats
and bullies, there was playground-justice,
quick and certain, understood by all.
But that came later, as our innocence
began to wane, as we began to look
outside ourselves—before that,
we were kids playing games, nothing more.
Yet, there was something more, we were
kids in Wonderland, there was
only the moment, past and future
were behind and beyond the games.
And, none of it was new to us,
or unusual, or even noted. Only now,
in retrospect, does the immensity,
the privilege, of our young lives reveal itself.
Poetry by jim
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Written on 2022-06-07 at 15:27
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