I saw a hopscotch board on the sidewalk this morning

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:52 PM

I remember certain games I played as a kid. There were the indoor games like checkers and jacks and pickup sticks. There were board games, too, like Shoots & Ladders and Candy Cane. Card games like Go Fish and War. I remember learning Solitaire at a fairly early age and spending hours dealing myself hands and trying very hard not to cheat. I’ve often wondered if the reason I am so OK being alone and working alone is because I love and respect the game and the name of solitaire, or if it is the just the opposite.

I remember learning to jump rope, not just with a rope twirled around my own hands, but the kind of jump rope played on playgrounds with a long rope with a  girl on each end, twirling in unison. You stand on the outside and you time it just right so you can jump in and jump over without the rope missing – skipping? – a beat. It took me a long time to master that and I loved the challenge. I loved to jump rope. I don’t know if kids still do this on the playgrounds at recess. I suspect they do. I hope so. It’s a fun and innocent game, and requires dexterity and timing and coordination, all things that kids need and should learn as they’re growing.

Another game I played when I was young was hopscotch. We’d draw a number of squares on the road in the neighborhood where we lived. I don’t remember if we numbered them. I don’t remember if we tossed a rock and hopped on the squares to pick up the rock in order to score points. I’m not even sure if I know exactly how the game is played or if I ever did. I just remember the squares and the hopping. One foot, one foot, one foot, two. One foot, one foot, one foot, two. Turn, and do it all again coming back.

I hadn’t thought about hopscotch for a long time, until this morning. Wednesday mornings we go for a bicycle ride. Not long, about 10 miles, but we stay in basically one gear and we pedal our little heart rates up for a nice 40 minute cardio workout. We go on the Rillito River path, a length of pavement that runs on both sides of the long-dried Rillito River, going nearly from the 10 freeway on the western side of the city to the far east side. It’s a wide lane, split with a line so it’s civilized. People walk their dogs and each other. Some rollerblade. Others run. Many, like us, cycle.

On the south side of the path, which we were on, heading east, there are many houses and apartment complexes. Some mobile homes. As we were pedaling along, we rode over a hopscotch board and then another. They had been drawn on the path with pink and white chalk, and were heavily scuffed from use, from other tires, from people walking over them. I don’t know when they were done; probably last night. It took a minute for it to even register what we had ridden over. A childhood game. Innocent play. The kind of game that seems to transcend generations because it is pure and fun and silly and wonderful. I could almost hear the kids who had been playing, as the sun melted into the west, searing the sky, giggling, shouting, encouraging, fighting. I could hear their parents calling them in for dinner and hear them going, reluctantly, calling see you tomorrow to one another.

It’s what we did as kids. Seeing that hopscotch board on the walk this morning reminded me of the sheer joy that can and should accompany childhood. It’s a time of no responsibilities other than learning the times table and spelling. It’s a time without worry. A time we all forget far too soon.

I thought about going back for a game. I thought about being a kid. I was on my bike, a different bike than when I was a kid when it was a purple stingray. The morning was cool and warm. The real kids were in school, learning times tables and spelling and dreaming of summer vacation. Maybe that’s why they had been playing hopscotch. It’s a summertime game, and summer is only weeks away. I saw it this morning. It was on the path, along the river, when we were living it out loud. 

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live out loud

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