Remember those summer evenings after we bolted down supper to get back to our work: playing?
The first choice was always Hide and Seek. Kids for blocks around dashed out of their houses for the game. First we drew straws to see who would be “it” to start. The unlucky one leaned against a tree, eyes covered, and chanted like a Gregorian monk: “Five, ten, fifteen, twenty . . . ninety-five, a hundred. Who’s not ready, holler aye!”
Meanwhile the rest of us looked for good hiding places. Due to the number of players, this required strategy. No obvious choices, like behind an ash pit or in a garden shed. No siree! Once I wedged myself between our house and the front Spirea bushes, breaking several branches and earning the scratches to prove it. I considered hiding under my mom’s car, but the oil leak made me reconsider.
If no one called “aye,” the “it” person began the search. We all knew to check the obvious places first, like behind a doghouse or in the shadows of a garage. Usually, the younger players got caught first, because they were still learning the ropes of smart hiding. Once the “seeker” had found someone and tagged them with “You’re it,” he or she called “Olly, olly ox in free!” It was the all-clear signal to come back to base and start over.
As darkness approached, we broke into sub-groups with kids from the closest houses, to catch lightning bugs. Sometimes we put them in jars with holes punched in the lids, because several made a fancy night light. Other times, we pinched off their twinkle lights and wore them on our fingers like diamond rings. Good thing the animal cruelty people weren’t around.
Now for a not-so-pleasant memory. Let’s talk chiggers. Remember those nasty little critters that loved to leave itchy, swollen welts in the most embarrassing parts of your body, like the groin area, the armpits and the waistband of your shorts? We painted them with clear fingernail polish, believing the critter burrowed into our skin and sealing the entrance would kill it. The internet says this is an old wives’ tale, but at least it kept us from scratching.
We stayed outside until it got so dark we Old School types were bumping into each other or the outdoor furniture. Then we trudged into our houses, fell into bed and slept like Rip Van Winkle, ready for the next day’s adventures.