I had a dream the other night in which I stood on the old playground at my elementary school, talking with a blond-haired man about the school and how it had changed. We were the ages we are now, with little kids running all over the place, playing and having a good time, but the field next to the playground was largely empty.
He asked me what the school was like back then, “Was it crowded?” he asked. “Were the kids separated?” When I attended, the building housed both the elementary and the junior high school, and the elementary kids were confined to the north wing while the junior highers had the south wings. Elementary students were not permitted in the junior high hallways, and were largely afraid of the big kids there, who were perceived as bullies (even though we had next to no interaction with them).
Now, according to my dream, all of the kids were mixed up because there simply wasn’t room or optimal spaces to accommodate all classes and sizes. Rather than dispelling fear, it increased confusion, and the school was a bit of a zoo. Nevertheless, it seemed like less kids were at recess, or at play.
I told him about kickback, the one sport I excelled at in elementary and junior high school. Besides in the classroom, dealing with academic questions and grades, there was little I could show off with at the time, but at kickback I reigned supreme.
Kickback is similar to kickball, in that there is a ball involved and you kick it. Other people try to catch it. Beyond that, they differ drastically, and the reason I preferred it is because you didn’t have to run much. The goal, rather than kicking the ball away from people so you could run around the bases, was simply to kick the ball as high and far as possible.
Two teams would face each other across the field, and a single soccer ball (or whatever similar ball was handy) would be drop kicked back and forth across the field. The goal was to kick it to an area of the field within the boundaries (usually demarcated by some trees or something) but in a place where someone on the other team would not be able to catch it. If the ball hit the ground, your team got a point. If they caught it, they got a point.
I was the best kicker, able to get the ball higher and further than anyone, and I loved that. I loved playing in that field, where there were trees and open skies, but by junior high, rules started to thud down around us. No playing tag. No hide and seek. No running around in the field, it’s too dangerous. In the game of tag, you have to… you know… tag someone. But that was too much like hitting, and therefore was banned. In my dream, the rules took it so far that most of the playground was empty because it was deemed unsafe. Too violent or dangerous.
Nevertheless, it was nice to think back and be nostalgic about something from my childhood that was purely pleasant. I remarked to the blond-haired young man how amazing it was to think back on those shining moments. With all the horrible things that happened at that school, all the bullying, beatings, and concussions, all the fear and angst, that there would be something there to think back on with fondness was a blessing. At least it’s not all bad, I said with a smile. Though I do miss kickback.