Coming Together for Play

When I was a young boy, play happened in a more unstructured way. Neighborhood children would come together to search for fun under their own volition. There was no need to escort them in carpools to an organized event. It always seemed to happen naturally, but looking back there was a process that brought the gang together each day. Inspired by the threat of chores if we remained idle for too long in our homes, one friend would start the process by calling over to a buddy’s house to get permission. The two friends would then decide who else was needed for conscription. Normally, this sort of carry on would be happening all around the neighborhood at the same time. Multiple small groups of twos or threes would meet up occasionally, moving en-mass for a big event.

Unless we were regrouping to finish something already started, the objective remained unclear until we knew how many players were available. We were flexible though, and what we did was secondary to getting together to do it. A small group of two might decide to play h-o-r-s-e until others came along with the potential for a bigger game. A group of three might play base runners or wait until there were three more to play cops and robbers on their bikes or stickball.

So much depended on how much time we had. A free Saturday would allow us the time to organize something big, like the neighborhood Olympics or a proper game of street hockey or kickball. Sometimes, there would be several different games played throughout the day leading up to one big main event.

What we played didn’t matter so much. Simply coming together to create opportunities for play is what attracted us. The ultimate goal was to be outside with friends. Sometimes, the quest for the grail is more important than the grail itself.

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