A few generations gathered for a brunch on the weekend and as the sun came out for a bit, the younger kids, full of sugar and chocolate, ventured out into the backyard.
These days, when kids go outside it is a lot like bears coming out of hibernation. At first they shield their eyes from the glare of the sun then begin to forage around the yard to see what they can find for entertainment.
One of the adults stuck her nose out the door and pointed out that there was a croquet set up on a shelf. The kids found the cardboard box and emptied out the contents on the lawn. There were no directions but a couple of the older ones had ‘sort of’ played before so they began discussing the rules, inventing new ones and arguing about the course set up.
The girls were very content to finesse the balls through the hoops while the boys looked for every opportunity to put their foot on one ball and smash their opponent’s ball across the yard, under the bushes or careening off the fence.
It’s difficult to blame them. Genetics dictate that if you give a male a club and a ball he is going to hit as hard as he can. Most boys never learn the meaning of the words like finesse, grace, delicate, sensitive or poise. Particularly where sports are involved.
The rain shortened the game and they came back inside declaring that the boys had won but they had cheated. It’s nice to hear that some things never change, generation after generation.
I recall getting a Summer Play Set one year consisting of a croquet set and a badminton set. It didn’t long to set up the poles and the net, mark off a court and soon my brothers and our friends were whacking the plastic birdie back and forth and of course using every opportunity to smash it at an opponent’s head.
We had a big back yard that was a baseball diamond, a soccer pitch, a football field and a few times that summer, a large croquet course. By the end of the summer, some of the balls were lost, heads were broken from the mallets from violent use other than playing croquet, and more than one of the metal hoops had been mangled up in Dad’s lawn mower resulting in us boys learning much colorful language.
Everybody on our street had a big backyard and a shed full of balls of all shapes and sizes and as soon you could find that little needle that screwed into the bicycle pump and inflate the ball, the game was on.
You can buy a croquet video game advertised as “Just like being outside.” Sorry, but nothing even comes close to being outside when you are a kid. Getting wet, getting dirty, making up rules, having a wooden ball bruise your shin, those are all character builders. At least that’s what McGregor says.