Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why do we stop playing?

It's 5:00 on a crisp fall afternoon. I find myself wandering through Lincoln Park, walking from log to log. Hopping as far down the beach as I can, and hoping I and my recently replaced crackberry are not going to end up in the drink. I pause for a while on a log made smooth as silk by the waves, driftwood I can't help but run my hands over. Racing to the swing set at the end of the park, trying not to catch my toes in the dirt. My legs are somehow longer than I remember. The snap of the chain as I stretch higher towards the sky. Throwing a tennis ball for a stranger's overweight but enthusiastic chocolate lab.

8:30 on a Thursday night, loving my new knee high boots, on a high from a tap class earlier in the day. Peeking around corners, no one is there. Bouncing down the halls at work, cardigan floating behind me like a cape. Really SITTING on those back falaps. Dancing down the stairs like Ginger Rogers and praying the cleaning lady doesn't catch me.

I love to play. I'm 28, but I would gladly play tag with you if you asked. The other night as I was walking towards my car after a long day at work, the crackle in the air had me craving night games in the worst way. Did you ever play those as a kid? We would gather in someones back yard and play 1 o'clock 2 o'clock (a much more elaborate version of hide and go seek in the dark) or ghost in the graveyard. Bike rides around "the loop" seemed so much more dangerous and thrilling when the entire neighborhood was bathed in the black of night. The headlights of cars out on the "big road" always seemed so much more sinister, like ever driver was out to get us. The cornfield behind the house made for the most epic maze adventures.

Why does this have to stop? Who says we must grow out of the silly adventures of our younger days? I know as adults we have more "grown up" ways to play, but these usually involve more money and gear than I'm willing to invest it. I'd love to get a group together and chase around the neighborhood in the dark. And maybe supplement the night with an adult beverage or two when we're all too tired to run anymore.

I was on the swing at the park not too long ago, and a little girl grabbed the swing next to me. She couldn't have been more than 4 or 5. As I slowed my swing to make sure I wasn't going to run into her, she looked at me and said "Are you a kid too?" I had to laugh. Am I a kid too? Yes sweetie, most days, I definitely am.