As I was watching the students at recess while I was on playground duty Friday, I took notice that none of the kids play actual games. There are swings and seesaws and sliding boards to keep their attention, but if they aren’t on one of those, they are usually running amok. There is screaming and chasing without reason. I don’t hear the words monster, villian, or bad guy mentioned at any time. They would never use the word villian anyway. They are just amok runners.
So, I stood there, trying to think back to when I was little. Did we act goofy like that? I mean, I am sure we did, but at least we were organized with a goal in mind kind -of- goofy. And that goal was to stay away from someone who had cooties or run faster than a fox or wolf who may be chasing us. And that made me think of playing Colored Eggs.
Colored Eggs was a childhood game that we brought to the playground. Well, I tried to bring it to the playground at the Sister Mary Mary Immaculate Academy. I played it at home with all the neighbor kids, and since we really didn’t have much in the way of a playground at this nun academy other than gravel beneath of swings and a leaning sliding board, our recess was a wash. So, I thought that I would mention Colored Eggs to the other kids standing around because they didn’t want to go down the slide ten times in a row because there wasn’t anything else to do.
The object of Colored Eggs was to be quicker than the fox. There was going to be a lot of chasing with this game. First, the kids had to decide who wanted to be the fox first. If no one spoke up, I volunteered, because, well, because I had my reasons. Then we all had to quietly pick a color. We sat in a circle on the grass when we played this game at home, but since the nuns had spread gravel under our feet so it would cushion our fall, gravel was not fun to sit on with your legs crossed.Plus we had to wear stupid uniforms. My skirt went down to my knees, so I could completely hide my legs under it while sitting down if I wanted to. And I wanted to. Back then we called it sitting Indian style. Nowadays I hear the kindergarten aide telling the kids to sit Criss cross apple sauce. What? See, this is one reason I don’t teach the little ones. Who would have thought that the way you sat down would be considered politically incorrect.
So, anyway, after everyone chooses a color and sits down, the fox stands to the back or side and calls out a color. The person that silently has that color needs to stand up, run quickly around the circle and get back in his or her spot before the fox can tag them on the back. We sat in a wide circle. For some reason I always always called yellow. I called yellow because I knew that every time we played Adele Stillman would pick yellow. She never changed her color. I would position myself close to her so that when I called yellow, I would be on top of her. Was that cheating? No, I was a fox, dammit, and foxes are crafty. I was being crafty.
I yelled, Yellow, and Adele took off. Too bad I knew her past behavior and I was on that chick faster than you can say creamed chicken on biscuit. She was now the fox and I had to quietly pick a color. Sometimes kids picked the same color and it was easy for the fox to pick off someone. When it was my turn to sit on the fun gravel, I had to move those ugly gray rocks around and position myself to where there wasn’t a piece of gravel biting me somewhere, like my butt. Once I was comfortable, I wasn’t going to get up and run around. I was done. So, I picked an odd color.
My mom unknowingly helped me master this art of not playing the game.
“Mom, what are some other colors beside yellow, green, blue, red, and white?”
“Well, there’s black…..grey…..silver…..gold…..brown……..and orange.”
I thought gold or silver would be good enough but the next time we played the damn fox called out silver. I had to jump up and wrinkle my nest of smooth gravel with my shoes as I took off to avoid the fox. And trust me, it is not fun to run from the fox around the circle and then plop yourself down once you made it around safely. It’s a hard landing and I had little sharp gravel points all over my legs and butt. Stupid gravel spreading nuns.
“Can you think of other colors?” Surely my mom didn’t think I was asking because I wanted to broaden my color horizon.
My mom took me downstairs where she kept all of her thread for sewing. It was like a goddamn rainbow. She read the colors off the thread for a good five minutes. “……..and there’s beige, maroon, turquoise, violet, burgundy, lime, pink, lavender, and umber.” I never understood why she had so many colors. I don’t remember her ever making me a top that had lime in it. She came home with a spool of thread every single time we went to Grants Department Store. She was a thread hoarder I am sure.
Anyway, I had an arsenal of color names that were just not used when playing Colored Eggs. After volunteering to be the fox first, I could make my bed and lie on it, never to get marked up by gravel again. Stupid nuns.
I knew that there would be no way anyone would ever call, “Umber!” That sort of made me chuckle. Of course, I had no idea what the hell umber was, but my mom was the one who told me it was brown like, so the rules did not state to use common colors. I was a very smart second grader I thought. But it was all in the name of not getting sharp gravel biting me on the butt.
I also realized that you could lie. I mean, who the hell knows what color you picked? You didn’t have to write it down. I learned that after some smartie said my color, “violet” and I just really didn’t want to run, you know, because of my nest. So, when Winston demanded to know my color, I would say one that hadn’t been called yet. I realized that pretty soon they were all going to be mad at me, so I would oblige once in a while to take sharp gravel on my ass for the team.
All in all, playing Colored Eggs was fun. I taught my own children strange colors like magenta, and ecru, but realized that they had grass to play on. Being a yellow or a red was not so bad…..if you could out run the fox.