Does anyone remember Kick the Can?
Kick the Can was more involved than Hide and Seek or “Manhunt,” as we called it, which is the same thing, only Manhunt sounded much, much cooler.
Someone is “It,” and whoever that someone is; that person closes their eyes (without peeking) and counts while the other players hide to the best of their ability. The “It” person counts to whatever number, say likeone Mississippi, two Mississippi, and all the way up to ten or twenty. Then the “It” person shouts out, “Ready or not, here I come.”
There are different versions of this game. What I remember is if “It,” found and tagged you, then they brought you to jail and then whoever was “It” went off to find the others that still hid nearby. Jail was usually a stoop or porch, but mostly, it was out in the open with the can standing on the ground right in front of the agreed upon area. But . . . if someone came out of hiding, ran over to the jail and kicked the can; this would free whoever was captured. Then someone would scream out, “home free all!” and all of the kids in jail would run off and try to hide again. Meanwhile, whoever was “It” did their best to recapture everyone that was freed.
Being “It” was tough.
Being “It” meant you had to run around and catch everybody. It means you had to find them, chase them, tag them and then walk them over to the jail.
If I remember right, the only way to not be “It” was to catch everyone else—and then they would be “It.”
(It’s like passing the Cooties, if you remember that . . .)
We made up rules to keep the game fair. No hiding behind rose bushes or sticker-bushes with thorns. We set up boundaries so nobody would hide too far from base and there was always someone arguing, “I tagged you,” with some kid running away screaming, “No you didn’t!”
There were time-outs and time-ins. There were do-overs and the occasional shout of, “Car,” when someone drove through our suburban side streets. There were teams and friends you picked first because you could trust them as well as kids you picked last because you couldn’t.
My friend Vince told me about the game, “Johnny Rides the Pony.”
He said, “We used to play that when we were kids in the late 60’s early 70’s.”
The game began with one person, being first, standing strongest and tall. Then the second would run and leap on the first’s back. Then a third would leap on the second one’s back, then a fourth would leap on the third, and they would do this until everyone fell.
I wonder if anyone still plays these games. I wonder if kids still attach soup cans or Styrofoam cups by a string and try to use them as telephones. I wonder how they communicate now in their virtually cordless world or if they connect with each other the way we connected when I was young.
The games we play as children are pertinent lessons to our future lives . . .
I may not have liked being “It,” when I played Kick the Can, but I did learn some valuable lessons. There is a responsibility to being “It,” and when searching for friends, always be aware of their rose bushes or sticker bushes with thorns. I learned there are people who are not worth catching and there are others worth finding. I learned that being caught isn’t always such a bad thing. It means someone was looking for you, and in many cases, it’s good to be looked for.
The games we play as children teach us how to determine who we should play with and who we shouldn’t. I learned not everyone is fun and not everyone is fair. People will cheat to win. People try and peek when their eyes are supposed to be closed—and above all—not everyone is willing to risk themselves by kicking the can so that someone can scream, “Home free all!”
Not everyone will call out, “Ready or not, here I come,” but rest assured this is a true statement in life because life on its own terms will rarely come with a warning. As for time-outs, time-ins and do-overs, these are a rare find. So appreciate them if they ever come along.
With regards to Johnny Rides the Pony; the lesson is there are people you can depend on to stand tall and there are people looking to jump on your back just to test your strength and make you fall.
So when you choose someone to play with . . . it is best to choose wisely.
The lessons we learn as children are deeper than we realize.
Take the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, for example. If you remember the hand gestures of the spider walking up the waterspout; it looks something like pointer fingers and thumb tips winding together. But it’s not.
This part is intended to teach eye/hand coordination and train the mind to connect simple steps. The hand gesture goes right pointer finger to left thumb and left pointer finger to right thumb. Then the order is switched back and forth to show how the Itsy-Bitsy Spider crawls up the waterspout. But of course, down came the rain and washed the spider out. Then out came the sun and dried up all the rain and the Itsy-Bitsy Spider crawled up the spout again.
And that too is a lesson.
I say this is a lesson of tenacity and survival.
I have not sung the Itsy-Bitsy Spider since my daughter was two. I haven’t had a chance to play Musical Chairs or King of the Mountain, which is an obvious lesson of its own.
I haven’t played Kick the Can in a while either.
But I’d like to . . .