We were city kids who had a bit of grass to play on. We lived in post-war garden apartments–brick, two-story buildings attached and arranged to create courtyards on tree-lined streets. Our court had a single maple tree in the middle of 12 apartments that served as shade and as base or jail for many a game of tag and ringolevio. We played hide-and-go-seek, making ourselves thin with our backs to that tree, or squatting behind yew and lilac bushes, or down in the pits that protected the cellar windows. We liked scully, a sidewalk board game played with bottle caps filled with wax, and kick-the-can, a raucous form of tag. Of course there was hop-scotch, stoop-ball, and baseball. Our strike zone was spray-painted on the brick wall of the neighboring apartments and our diamond marked out on the perfect square of grass that was our common front yard.
And there was statue, one of my favorite games. Why? It was the combination of freeze tag and someone swinging me around and around on the grass and then letting go. I was the youngest. I got flung easily and far. It was wild fun, the world whirling, the face of my sister or brother or another big kid, grimacing to gather strength and speed to throw me. And then, flight, and tumble, and freeze! I’m a statue, waiting to be freed by a tap on the shoulder or a zooming teammate screaming by. We were a loud and rowdy bunch, us kids playing in the court, doing the work of childhood. And we needed the laughing. We needed a patch of grass to get giddy on, to run ourselves silly on, a place to feel the joy of being flung. Spin me around ‘til I’m dizzy, my heart in my ears, then let me go. A fall doesn’t matter, dirt doesn’t matter, dirty doesn’t matter when you’re laughing. I trusted the air and bigger hands than mine to let go at the right time, to handle me with care, to set me free. I trusted the grass beneath my feet and I ran and fell and played my way into evenings where our games continued by streetlight.
The sound of these memories is laughing. The sound bounces off brick and concrete, echoes into the sky, pulses the world with joy that exists for no reason at all. My child-laugh is still reverberating into the universe. The universe is still hearing me laugh, swooned by dizziness, and pleasure, ready for more, here in the heartbeat of God.