Go On Outside and Play

May 7, 2006

The next warm day we have I am going to go outside, take off my shoes and socks and spread my toes in a tall patch of green grass right alongside of the big oak tree that has been there in the front yard since I was a kid. Back in the day this yard was a gathering place for those of us whose parents had said “Go on outside and play”. And we did. Most of the time we didn’t even need to be told. Outside was much more fun than inside. Sometimes I would even have to sit at the breakfast table until my mom said it was an “appropriate time” for me to go out.

And we played. We played Red Rover. We played Kick the Can. We played Tag, Red Light Green Light, and Hide and Seek. When it was hot we ran through the sprinkler. We rode bikes. We played circle ball and jumped rope. When it got dark we played flashlight tag at least until the batteries ran out. Then we played some kind of game where we hid from the headlights of cars that would come down the street. I can’t remember what that was called. We caught lightning bugs and put them in Ball jars, knowing full well that they would probably be dead in the morning and not smell very good. But we played.

There was usually a big gackle of us. The more the better. Some things you could do alone but it was always much more fun when everyone played. There were little sisters and big brothers, and sometimes even a cousin or two. Come to think of it, all of us had a mom and a dad…that lived with us. How weird is that? Anyway, everyone got a chance and if one of us wasn’t there, we knew why.

Our parents didn’t worry about us much. At least I don’t think they did. We checked in every once in awhile, but for the most part we just played until we were dirty and tired and got called in for the night.

We learned some too. I did anyway. I learned to wait my turn. Big kids usually got to go first and if I wanted to keep playing, that was ok. Two’s company, three’s a crowd and the third one could go home or learn to play nice. We didn’t tattle unless it was a matter of life and death, which it usually wasn’t. Sometimes you were going to get your feelings hurt and you could tough it out – or go home, because in the long run everyone wanted to keep playing and no one liked a cry baby. Only certain people could get away with being bossy and not everything was fair. Looking out for the little guy was a little more important to you if you had been the little guy. I also learned to duck, that the tree was a safe zone, never ever hide too good, and it hurt to be picked last. These were life lessons that shaped every fiber of my adult being.

I’ve been watching lately for kids outside playing. Not organized sports. Not walking along the street with cell phones or Ipods, but kids outside playing. They are few and far between. Will they have the chance to learn to play together? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe they will have an equally formative life experience. But when I close my eyes and breathe in the fresh air, and feel the joy of bare feet in cool grass, I can almost hear someone hollering “Allee, allee, all come free”, and I wish that for them. I hope someone says to them, “Go on outside and play.”

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3 Responses to “Go On Outside and Play”

  1. willi Says:

    I can relate to playing outside. I remember going to Memphis and playing kick the can with Ricky and Randy and their friends until dark. It was great fun.

    As adults I think we need to remember how we played and worked things out on our own, just as you describe. We need to say to our kids -work it out- rather than try and solve it for them when they come to us and complain.

    We all say we love our kids so much and then we quickly solve all of their problems for them. Well, if we loved them so much we should remember that they too need to learn how to play and get along without the assistance of an adult.

    Beautiful memories here.

  2. mjd Says:

    Ah, those were the days my friend. I like those memories. We played Red Light, Green Light, Statue Tag, Mother May I, and when we were especially brave, just as night fell, we played a very scary game appropriately called “Bloody Murder.”

  3. daddy d Says:

    Play is good. I never want to grow up. I just don’t get to play enough. To find joy in doing is the best that life can be…however, one needs to positive towards other people. Let grace follow.


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