Play Spud, Catch Fireflies, Run Through the Sprinkler

***

I am one of the lucky ones.

My childhood was filled with laughter and love and long days spent outside that rolled into the evening. When I think of my formative years, I picture myself playing outside on the lawn, riding bikes through the neighborhood, going to the park, splashing at the neighborhood pool, or hunting down my friends in a friendly game of flashlight tag. We were outside most of the time; I’m sure my mother loved it that way. Besides, why be cooped up all day inside when the glorious sunshine beckoned us to come outside…and…well, play.

Two days ago on one of my long walks in my current neighborhood, I came upon a group of kids. They were playing SPUD. I said to one of them, “SPUD was my favorite game as a kid.” He responded, “It’s the best.”

He’s right. It’s a great game for all to play. It doesn’t take a lot of talent, and it’s just fun to see what happens after you throw that ball up in the air and call someone’s name. It’s good old-fashioned fun. No electronics are needed. Just a ball and some friends. And voila! You’ve got a game.

We happened to love that game and played it on the hill in our backyard in Bowie. Our family had a pretty grand hill—super for sledding in the winter, that was for sure. But in the summer, we made use of it in other ways. SPUD was a street favorite. There was also Hide and Seek using our yard, our neighbor’s yard, and our other neighbor’s yard across the street.  Flashlight tag worked the same way. We played Graveyard and What Time Is It, Mr. Fox and Red Light, Green Light.

On super hot days, if we weren’t at the pool, we’d get in our bathing suits and run through the sprinkler. We’d get squirt guns and play a game of squirt gun tag.

When dusk arrived, we got our Mason jars, kiddie nets or our hands, and hunted for fireflies. We’d catch them and watch them light up while we ate ice cream on the patio. Then, we’d let them free.

As the crisp spring air and sunshine warms up Maryland, I hope I see more kids outside playing SPUD, eating ice cream, catching fireflies, and running through the sprinkler.

Just like the days of old.

imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Youth-ink It’s Funny

Currie and me and the pool celebrating Youth Night.

Last night, my friend Currie and I sat under one of the cabanas at a picnic table while we observed Youth Night at the pool. Kids aged 10-18 could come out, listen to the hired DJ spin tunes, enter the “splash” contest, eat pizza, dance to “The Cupid Shuffle” and “Cotton Eye Joe,” and just generally have fun with their friends. Watching the kids intermingle was a hoot, as was the fact that Currie and I were “tush dancing” or “bench dancing” the entire time.

We’ve all heard the saying “youth is fleeting.” It’s true. I wanted to capture that moment for my two children who were gallivanting around the pool, cavorting with friends, and shout “hold on to this moment; childhood memories should be cherished.” If I could have bottled up that moment for them, I would have. Think of how many childhood memories you have stored up in your own bottle? Aren’t you glad you chose to remember them?

I realized last night in a moment of clarity of thought, that my youth is over. Caput. It has been for years, but we often live vicariously through both our memories and our children’s experiences. As Currie and I were—to use a term appropriate for my age—grooving—we stopped and laughed at ourselves. We are old, we thought. And our youth is over. We are middle-aged women, with pre-teenaged kids. Should we be bench dancing, giggling, and acting like the youth that surrounds us?

In the words of Sarah Palin, “You betch-ya.”

It was fun. For a while. But by 9:30 p.m., after two and a half hours, the middle-aged mom in me came back to reality. I returned to my mommy duties, laid down the law, and got them home to bed.

Before I tucked them in, I said, “You two know you’re lucky, right? First, that your pool has an event like this, and second, that you get to attend an event like this. I don’t remember youth night at my pool when I was young. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Always remember how much fun you had.”

They both nodded, and went to bed. Exhausted.

I really did mean what I said. I really did.

Keith Richards, from his book, “My Life.”

And because I meant and mean every word I have just said, I decided to end this poignant post with a quote from a very noteworthy, poignant individual: Keith Richards, of The Rolling Stones. (Youth-ink it’s funny? You can stop laughing now.) His words are actually quite brilliant. He said, “We age not by holding on to youth, but by letting ourselves grow and embracing whatever youthful parts remain.”

Thank you, Keith, for that, and for validating that even middle-aged women have the divine right to bench dance if they want.