Yesterday, hearing screaming and pounding feet from the upstairs of my home, I found my two sons spraying each other with bottles of some type of cleaning fluid. Equally horrified and terrified, I screamed so loud that my throat felt the effects for some time after. “You could KILL each other! That is POISON. What are you thinking!” Dejected and guilty they slunk away. As I stood in my bedroom trying to calm down, I suddenly felt an immense guilt as I myself reminisced about the childhood “games” my three sisters and I too had enjoyed. Below are a few highlights from memory:
1. The pulling hair game – One sister was in charge (we rotated) and sat in front of the other two who lay side by side, perfectly straight, arms at their sides. The object of the game was to attempt to make the sister who lay before you laugh. Once they showed even a hint of a smile, you would yank their hair to get them to return to an expressionless grimace and motionless body. Again and again the torturer yanked ignoring the awful shrieks of his captee hissing ” legs down, no smile!! You are smiling!! Lie straight!!!!” It was a particularly cruel game as it was virtually impossible to lie straight and motionless while ignoring the pain of the hair pulling. I recall, trying to decide which piece of your hair (bangs, back, front) you would allow the torturer to hold when it became time to yank. I always went for the outer hair as underneath layers were always more painful. The game always ended up with someone in tears, yet we never tired of playing.
2. The “Hanging Game” – We had a staircase which allowed iron rungs wide enough for a pair of children’s legs to fit through. Once through you would lower yourself backwards to the ground while hanging by your legs from the staircase. The perpetrator stood behind you and tickled you until you ended up surrendering or in more cases than most, falling through the rungs onto the wooden floor. I don’t ever recall more than a bump on the head and we luckily escaped more serious injury.
3. BBQ singe – a favorite as it generally took place when our cousins came over for summer barbecues. The game was quite simple. Search the yard for a steady long stick which would be “dipped” in the smoldering embers post bbq. We would then race around attempting to singe each other on the arm or leg or any other uncovered area on the body before the glowing embers cooled. The last person “unbranded” won. Again lucky all burns were superficial as the sticks cooked off while racing around yard..
4. The “Tasting Game” – I believe our favorite and a departure as it went beyond the general rule of only sisters to include neighborhood friends. As a matter of fact the game always had to have a newcomer as those that partook learned quickly the peril and would never play again. It began simply, enjoyably. One person would be the taster and sat blindfolded at our kitchen table as my sister and I ransacked the cabinets for delicious tidbits to allow the taster to sample. The object of the game was for the taster to guess the food he or she was fed. The first spoonful was intended to gain trust and always delicious. A spoonful of chocolate syrup, a dollop of honey, a chocolate square. As the taster delightedly guessed each item with ease, the game would then turn more sinister. The last spoonful always contained an item of food that would instantly and inevitably end the game. What followed was the blindfold being torn off amid a barrage of angry words uttered moments after that spoonful of raw egg or perhaps smidgeon of Alpo dog food, met the shocked taster’s tongue. Almost each and ever time after the tasting game occurred my mother would receive a call from an angry parent demanding how such a thing could have happened. I wonder what she told them.
Here’s to uncensored childhood and the “games” we played – not a smartphone in sight. And we lived to tell.