This is for all my kinfolk out there who, like me, when you were a kid were either: 1.) Scrawny 2.) Non-athletic and/or 3.) Unpopular. As for me, I hit the trifecta here. Maybe you can feel my pain. Actually, there is no residual pain, but only funny memories at this point. Something today made me think of those dreaded days on the school playground and the gymnasium.
What did you call that class where you had to change into a hideous uniform? We called it “Phy. Ed.” Also known as “P.E.” or “gym.” I forget what grade it was when our very small school started implementing the Phy Ed uniform. The girls wore one-piece “outfits” that consisted of a red and white striped t-shirt top that connected to red shorts. The longest zipper I’d ever seen in my life went up the back. We were mortified at our appearance, which leads me to believe we were in those awfully awkward “junior high” years. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. The main thing I want to talk about is a horrible game we played. I remember us being outside so it had to be only in the fall and maybe the spring in northern Wisconsin. It was a game that delighted many, but struck absolute dread in me. I’m talking about that one and only game . . . .
Did you play that? “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (insert name here) right over!!” Two lines of kids stood facing each other on the field. They all held hands as tightly as they could as a classmate would come barreling over from the other side and try to break through the clasped hands. Who decided this would be a good game for children? Attempt to either rip the shoulder out of the socket of one of your classmates, or at the very least, break some fingers or maybe an arm or wrist. Or perhaps if you’re the runner, you could bruise your ribs by running between a couple of third grade brutes with hands like Sasquatch. Heaven forbid you’re short and take a couple of linked arms to the neck as you try to break through! I think some of my earliest prayers were Red Rover-related: “Please, God, don’t let him run my way!” It was an easy-enough decision for me to simply let go of the other person’s hand I was holding, should a runner try to storm our “gate.” But, if the other kid was a bit more competitive than I (which would be every other kid on the field), and he or she was NOT as willing to let go of my hand, thus allowing the invading attacker safe passage, I was doomed to get hurt. If I did manage to disengage with whomever was holding my hand, I’d then face the scorn of said competitive classmate as he or she looked at me with disgust and snarled, “Why’d you let go?!” Oh, the shame of it all. I just didn’t want a fractured wrist or a severed artery! Is that such a bad thing?
According to my extensive research (google) I found out that we have the United Kingdom to thank for this game. It has a variety of names, depending on where it’s played. In China, it’s called “Forcing the City Gates.” I guess I’d rather welcome weary travelers with open arms rather than try to hold them forcibly at bay. It’s just the nicer thing to do. It turns out that Røver is the Norwegian word for robber, so some say this game originated from a conflict in Norway. Those darn Vikings! I knew they were trouble!
Alas! I survived those years and now don’t ever have to anticipate playing that game ever again. Thank You, Jesus! Of course, I haven’t even broached the subject of “Crack The Whip.” No. I can’t even go there.