We had an ice cream party at school today. My class won it for something or other way back in the dark days of winter and I kept putting it off by telling my students that we'd wait until it was warmer. So now, with only three weeks left in the school year, I figured it was about time I made good on my promise. Afterward, we had about fifteen minutes left in the day so we played 7-Up. While I watched the kids tiptoeing around the room, I recalled my own experience with this and other childhood games.
I'm sure it says something about my psyche that I lived in fear of most of these games. I was scrupulously honest as a child and buried my face so deep in my arms that I nearly suffocated myself. I didn't want anyone to think of me as a cheat. With my eight-year-old heart pounding away I imagined my thumb being crushed by one of my brutish classmates. I always kept my thumb slightly bent and buried it in my fist the instant it was touched. This fear was so paralyzing that I'm quite sure I was the only person who actually hoped I wouldn't get picked.
And was there anything more mortifying than Duck-Duck-Goose? Like some kind of cultish chant. "Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck"-- and with every "duck," a nice slap to the top of your head--"GOOSE!" I hated being the goose. Perhaps it was because I was slow.
But the king of horrific childhood games has got to be musical chairs. First, there was the terrifying music. In my day, the teachers always spun the vinyl on one of those boxy record players and it was never the kind of music you'd hear in the car on the way to school. No Men At Work, or Hall and Oates, or Dexy's Midnight Runners for musical chairs. At school you had to listen to creepy "children's music" by scary people like Raffi. So with this seriously spooky music playing you all pretended to walk around in a circle, but you weren't really walking. You were doing that shuffle-lean and pausing in front of each chair for just a second because at any moment the psychotic teacher was going to lift the needle and you were going to have to try to wedge your fanny onto a seat before they were all gone and you were left standing there like the loser you already suspected you were. And just in case you didn't realize that you were a loser, the teacher would walk over and slide a chair out of the circle, taunting you with the very object you failed to acquire. "Here," would be her silent message, "you can sit down now, loser."
Ah well, off to sit in a dunk tank. It's our annual end-of-the-year carnival tonight. Should be fun.