See now, this I know we got from you – as direct descendants from poverty, my generation learned how to make do, how to craft simple games from scavenged items and find joy with no money involved. Tag was for the weak, the uninspired. And football? Baseball? Kickball? How boring, unless, of course, you combined all three. At the same time.
On long, rainy fall days, my brothers and I would roam restlessly through the house, looking for God knows what and driving our mother to distraction. Our whining knew no limits until she finally lost her remaining thread of patience and kicked us out.
Go, make something up, she said and pointed to the front door.
But mooommmmm…. it’s wet outside, we bleated, and it’s getting darrrkkkk…
The order was not to be disobeyed.
Wind had arrived with the rain, bringing the leaves down in a carpet of reds and golds. Beautiful, but we were kids, who cared about that stuff.
You know, Jimmy, I said, kicking the leaves with my foot. This could be kinda fun…
Too wet to jump in sis – unless you want to go ahead.
No, I murmured, not jump in…
But wack with, he finished my sentence.
We flew into the house, ignoring my mom’s protests of wet shoes and mud tracking to seek the bottom drawer of the coat closet.
Ah yes, the bottom drawer. A place of wonder and secrets and treasures. Among other things, Dad and David kept their wool hunting socks there… you know the kind- long, grey with a band of orange on top? And just what was with that splash of color – what idiot would tuck their pants into their socks? Oops, they did, apparently.
We secreted our treasure outside…
And packed the ends, just the toes, with the wettest, most smelly decayed leaves we could find. Jim’s grin said it all.
The first wack left a wet smudge just below my knee. My aim was true-er and he took a hit full force on the back.
Peels of laughter now rang out in the dark, a mysterious calling that beckoned the local kids to rouse from their wood stove-induced lethargy and venture outside to see what all the commotion was about.
It didn’t take long for more to join in.
Soon there were a half-dozen screaming, running, wacking kids in our yard.
A moment of peace, that’s all Mom wanted and that’s what we were giving her. Well, at least we were outside…
After countless strikes, the socks lost their elasticity and began to stretch, but we didn’t mind. In fact, we liked it – longer socks gave us room to manuever. One didn’t have to venture as close to the enemy to get in a good hit.
Did we catch holy-hell for this malarky?
Sure we did.
Was it worth it?
Did we do it again?
Countless times, only we used the same socks so they would never know. Please don’t tell them, it’s a secret.