We recently celebrated my younger sister Coleen’s birthday with the usual family get-together. We promised all the nieces and nephews we’d play a game – a kids’ game before the game us adults would play later with some alcohol when the kids settled down in the family room with the latest Pixar DVD release. Yes, we’d play an adult game resulting in:
- A few people losing their huge stash of quarters in some card game.
- One couple nearing divorce over a board game where it’s always boys vs. girls.
- Someone almost peeing their pants from laughing so hard at the other team.
- All of the above.
Anyways, after dinner we indulged the kids. We decided to play Red Light, Green Light. You know, the game we played centuries ago when kids still liked to play outside — away from TV, iPads and computer screens. It was actually a lot of fun. A few of us adults played and nobody broke a hip. The kids had a great time. Half of them hadn’t even heard of Red Light, Green Light. We even played Simon Says. I lost. Apparently I have a problem with authority. But it was awesome seeing the kids running around and giggling. It’s how it used to be when I was a kid.
Red Light, Green Light. Simon Says. Mother May I. Red Rover, Red Rover … wait that last one is actually before my time. My sisters and our friends loved playing games outside when we were little, and riding bikes, hitting the tennis ball against the garage, climbing trees, setting records on pogo sticks, making forts, playing Door Bell Ditch, beating each other up on the lawn … we’d do anything to be outside. Even if it was raining we wanted to put on galoshes and tread down the gutters and splash in the puddles. Our Dads would come outside after they got home from work and throw a ball around with us. If Dads had to work late, Moms would come outside and throw the ball around with us. People actually were active all on their own, without driving to some building to pay for exercise. And we had Jack LaLanne. I have vague memories of Jack on TV. He was the original fitness guru. You could work out with Jack in your living room … and you didn’t have to pay for it.
Once my sisters and I became teenagers, we’d be in the family room blasting some music on the big ol’ stereo, and we’d be DANCING. And that was after walking home from school for a half hour or more, and after doing all our chores. We had a certain rotation of records we’d play every day. (Youngins: records are vinyl discs that played on old stereos to produce music. You can find them today in antique shops, or cool, funky stores in Berkeley. They’d warp. You had to put coins on them so they wouldn’t skip. They’d also skip if you jumped too hard on the floor or did cartwheels into the stereo.) So our music rotation consisted of some major Old School — that was the only stuff we could seriously get down to, especially Parliament, Funkadelic or anything else by the master, George Clinton. Take note youngsters: “Old School” (or “Old Skool”) refers to the awesome music popular in the late ‘70s and early ’80s. “Old School” does not refer to every single thing that happened before today all the way back to the beginning of time. This is Old School:
If you clicked on that, stop dancing, sit down and finish reading this post.
So where was I. Ah yes, Old School — Parliament, Bar-Kays, Rick James, The Gap Band, Con Funk Shun. We practiced dancing The Rock, The Dog, and my personal favorite, The Pimp Walk. We’d even make up our own fancy dances. And my sister’s boyfriend, his brothers, our brotha Dave and other friends would come over and dance with us. That was our exercise. It was awesome.
Today, everyone is running (driving) to the gym for a workout … before work, after work, on lunch break. A workout they’re paying for. What? Now I’m all for keeping fit. I love hearing all about it as I sit on the couch writing my blog. But when I was a kid, my parents didn’t need anyone telling them to go to a big building and exercise on a stationary machine and pay for it. Heck no, I remember my parents going on walks, hitting the bowling alley, playing tennis with us. Dad played golf, Mom took belly dancing lessons, Dad chased us around the house playing “The Monster” and Mom chased us around the house with a wooden spoon. And oh yes … they danced.
Fun, natural fun.