The Games People Play

Games. What comes to mind when you hear this word? The English language provides many different meanings to this familiar word. Whatever your current situation or focus is will determine which definition you think of first. Games can be played together at a table; they can be practical jokes played on someone not in on the game; they can be negative too, if someone you know is playing you in an immature or mean way.

I’m reminiscing a lot these days. Losing someone you love will do that to you. Since my brother passed away last month our family has been on a roller coaster of memories–all good–but each one has a sting to it since there will be no more new memories made. What was, is what is.

Growing up in the 60’s we played lots of games: swimming pool games, outdoor games, indoor games (if it was too hot or raining) and practical joke games. The latter was my brother’s favorite, by far!

As kids we rode our bikes all over Pine Hills. Our parents had no idea where we were and only required we come home before the streetlights came on. We spent lots of time in the nearby woods exploring, building, making up various versions of hide and seek. One of our favorites was, There’s No Ghosts In The Graveyard, and had to be played after dark.

My brother’s favorite hobby was to scare me, and he excelled at it!

The way the game was played was to pick one person to be the ghost. You hid somewhere while all the others counted to 10. Then the whole group would start walking around chanting, “there’s no ghosts in the graveyard” over and over until we got close to where the ghost was hiding. The ghost would jump out and yell, “Yes there is!” and everyone would scream and run to home base as fast as our legs would carry us. If the ghost tagged you before you got home, you were the ghost. Being afraid of the dark, I never wanted to be the ghost. Hiding alone waiting for the group to get close was scary to say the least.

Which leads to why I was afraid of the dark in the first place.

Once again my brother took it on himself to help me overcome my fear by making me face it–over and over again! One way he did this was to hide either in my closet or under my bed at night. He would patiently wait for me to crawl in bed and turn the lights off before he’d jump and scream like a banshee. This would always be followed with howls of laughter (his) and uncontrollable tears (mine). One would think I would get used to it, but I never did.

Fast forward to 1975 when the movie Jaws hit the big screen. My brother was being extra nice and asked if I wanted to go see it with him and his good friend. I should have been suspicious at that point, but I was also very gullible. Another trait of mine he loved to hone in on.

Unbeknownst to me Billy and his friend had already seen Jaws. We got to the theater and they had me sit in the middle. I was enjoying their attention and had no clue, until it happened. When Jaws appeared for the first time, my brother and his friend knew it was coming. They both in stereo screamed and grabbed my arms. I was terrified. And they were entertained, more by me than the movie.

Games. There are so many more we played as kids–rotton orange fights in our grandparents’ groves, hopscotch, splash (our own version of Marco Polo), and Horse-played around our basketball goal in our driveway.

When my brother and sister started driving the games elevated to the streets–Chinese Fire Drill was played often and with tons of laughter. I haven’t thought of this game in years and I’m wondering why the name? Here’s what I’ve learned…

The term goes back to the early 1900s, and is alleged to have originated when a ship run by British officers and a Chinese crew practiced a fire drill for a fire in the engine room. The bucket brigade were to draw water from the starboard side, pass it to the engine room, and pour it onto the ‘fire’.

source: Wikipedia

Who knew we were acting out a moment in history? We just were having fun.

Life is like that. You think you’re just having fun, but at some point you realize we were making history–our own family’s history. This means more to me now than ever.

What games did your family play as you were growing up?