People say, today, that our kids don't get enough exercise and we're forever trying to set up some sort of organized play for them. There are sports teams and "play dates," and we always worry about them getting hurt. Not only are we concerned about injuries, there's the whole liability issue. It seems we have to sign ten different waivers and release forms before they can so much as play tag!
Well, back in Arlington, Massachusetts, we had a lot of fun running around the playground of our school during recess, and it was the most unorganized form of fun there was. During winter - of course - there was the snow. The plows would come in, early in the morning, and shove the snow to the two ends of the playground; thus forming all manner of weird snow sculptures. Then, when we came out to play, we had readymade forts and slides to play on, and we did a lot of sliding. Often times we crashed into each other - often times on purpose! What a concept: we survived.
Then there were the snowball fights. Here again, today, such things would not be tolerated. The "PC Police Force" would clamp down on any such activity for a whole host of reasons. Oh, we're teaching our children to be violent, they're becoming aggressive, the big kids are picking on the little ones; it's a form of bullying, and, of course, far too dangerous! Back in the "ancient times," of my childhood, everyone tolerated such activities.
Yet, looking back on it, I realize that we never really did have any snowballs fights. The process went along these lines:
Step one, we divided ourselves up based on classes; a couple of the fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes would take one end, and the others the other. Then they'd take a few of the younger kids under their wing - each side would select a couple of the first, second and third graders to help them.
Next, we'd start to arm ourselves - we'd make snowballs. Ah, but that was only part of our planning; you must remember, this was the late 60s and early 70s - the Cold War was very "hot." So, our "strategic planning" went along the lines of the Superpowers - we couldn't launch our attack if we only had a similar number of snowballs as the other side; we had to have an overwhelming superiority.
Thus began the "raiding parties."
The "older kids" would leave us little kids to guard the fort, and then they would sally forth to steal snowballs from the other side. Now, the thing was, what little six or seven-year-old would sit still for that? I mean, come on, stand around and watch over a bunch of snowballs? When the "big kids" from the other fort came to steal the snowballs, what little kid was going to stand up to them? So, it wasn't long before the little kids were following the big kids to the other fort.
After that, the entire rest of recess passed the same way: we would spend our time running to the other team's fort, grab as many of their snowballs as we could carry, and race back to our own fort to deposit them. Of course, kids being kids, we tended to overload our arms, and, in our haste, we'd end up dropping half of them on the way. Back and forth we'd go, all the while the playground getting more and more littered with our "spent weapons", and neither side ever getting that needed overwhelming superiority necessary to assure us of "ultimate victory." We would pass our friends and foes alike, arms laden with snowballs - yet never throw a one. Well, we couldn't now, could we? After all, "formal hostilities" had not yet begun.
Finally, the end of recess and that was it. The bell sounded, one or more of the teachers would call out to us, and we'd have to head inside. Day in, day out, month after month and year after year - it was always the same. I went from a tiny first grader to an old sixth grader, rulers of the school, and never once did we get to throw one of those snowballs.
It was quite the little version of DÃ©tente - global superpower politics in miniature. We had our Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Still, neither side had a clear superiority, nor thus our icy cold "Cold War" remained just that, open "warfare" never declared.
I imagine the fellows who ran the snowplows didn't much appreciate us making a mess of all of their work. Yet, when you consider the countless hours of sheer fun we managed to have, I tend to think it was worth it.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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