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, T.M. 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’ 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 Lay 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 theatre 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 over-drive, 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!