Ready or Not, Here We Come

Look Right (James K-M photo)

The pandemic lockdown and its great p a u s e made the return to a version of what had been normal life impossibly incongruent. It was no longer the way life needed to go. After the pause we could see how we had outgrown our current place, space and way of life.

We’ve made the exciting and life-changing decision to move to Salt Spring Island - from the old historic part of downtown Vancouver where we live in a loft on a busy corner, to something completely different! This isn’t just an idea anymore. Our place in Vancouver is listed and we’re moving end of November. So, as they say in Hide and Seek, “Ready or not, here we come!”

It’s All a Play

When I was a kid, we still played some of those common old elaborate games that everyone somehow knew. It was amazing that kids all knew these games, skipping songs, hopscotch rhymes.

Freeze tag was a great favourite of mine - not just regular “tag you’re it” - freeze tag turns all the players into statues while the tagger chases down everyone in the game. How does it end? When all the players stand frozen in their positions, or are set free.

Simon Says, Mother May I, and Red Light Green Light are all permission games played by kids in groups in line together. One dominant figure calls the shots, and the players either do it right or are disqualified. British Colonialism. The fun is in being the leader, being Simon who says, being Mother saying yes you may, or no you may not. Or, the robot version, being the street traffic light saying stop, go. A police game.

In Musical Chairs it is all about scarcity and grabbing what you want first, so you can win. When the music stops, grab a chair or you are out of the game. All that dancey circling the chairs to the music is merely waiting your chance to snag a chair before someone else does or you’re out of the game.

Have you seen that black and white footage of kids playing in London streets in the early 1950s? Children circling, reciting, jumping together, playing the centuries-old games in rhythm together, in cadence of nursery rhymes, in trance and realms of fairy tales. An abstraction of life set in game and song, the worldview of a past generation patterns itself into the next. I think that’s all gone now. If the games are there, they are organized, not spontaneously happening by kids, for kids. And of course now with Covid-19 no one is playing touch games at all.

Like the recess game of Crack the Whip, where kids all in a line hold hands and run forward very hard together, in circles and loops, until the ones on the end break off, can’t keep up, fall down. The ones up front have it easy: the Simons who say, the Mothers who permit, those who call out Red Light, the ones playing and stopping the music. At the end of the long tail, kids are always breaking and falling out of the game. The kids who crack the whip run hard and fast, twisting and turning and shaking everybody off onto the hard playground.

Some of those kids on the ground might look at each other, stand up, dust off and get together in their own way. They improvise, make up their own games, acting out stories, creating theatre together. They write plays skewering the Simons, the Mothers, the Whip-Crackers, stories as signposts for understanding, and messages for others.

Director and playwright Ken Dyba did that. He passed away recently, and he will be missed. He said he was always working on and refining the same material that he started with in high school. I believe that’s true for a lot of us, and even further back - to the recess playground, to hide and seek on a rainy day at home, to peek-a-boo with the baby. It’s all a play.

Closing the eyes and covering the face, the seeker counts to 100 out loud, while the hider finds the perfect hiding place. Then the seeker cries out, “One hundred! Ready or not, here I come!” and begins to rampage through the place looking under beds, in closets and cupboards, nooks and crannies. (In a way, this is sort of an expanded version of peek-a-boo.) The hider keeps as still as any meditator, holding in the breath like a hunted animal, keeping all the energy and emanations still, close to the heart, tight. This old old game survives generation after generation. Eventually, the seeker calls out, “Found you!”

The Necchi Stays

I’m keeping it after all.

With the upcoming move, everything is being sorted. I thought I’d sell my vintage Necchi sewing machine, but looking it up online for sales descriptions, I realized that I do still love it. Convinced by the glowing testimonials and reviews of this Italian machine, I’ve renewed my vows. I, too, will be able to say, in my best Italian, “Fate come me!”

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