A game of “Red Light, Green Light” often began with only a few of us scrambling from driveway to “Light”. The call, “green light” accompanied with the varied pause and then the shouted, “red light!” acted like the siren’s call, luring kids from throughout the neighborhood to dash with breakneck speed at the target. It never took long for the game to disintegrate into an endless argument on who got caught in movement by the “Light.” Before chaos descended, the game morphed into “Freeze Tag” or “Statues.” Both games shifted tension into uncontrollable bursts of laughter as bodies and faces contorted into hilarious positions.
I loved “Statues” because one of the older boys would grab my wrists and spin me mercilessly. The world blurred into the muted colors of dusk as I tried to focus on something. Upon release, I’d soar through the hot summer air, capture a pose in midflight, and freeze into position once I bounced to a halt. Everyone wanted their turn to spin and throw me because of my pixie body and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” good humor.
As an adult, I’ve come to believe in the value of play. Not being on a team, coached and hemmed in by adults, but unfettered play within a diverse pack of kids that created its own hierarchy and rules. I didn’t get shuttled to and from structured soccer practices. I didn’t spend hours in lessons after school under more adult supervision. I know my mother listened to our games. I remember seeing her outline through the screen door when she snuck a peek at our antics. However, parental presence stayed in the background and the shadows through most of our evening play, emerging only when there was blood spilled or bones broken. All the fussing and fighting that came about as we struggled with pecking order? We accomplished this without adult input or supervision. This autonomy in play, I believe, is the greatest loss for the generations that followed my own.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman