Ode To Recess

Wall ball. Handball. Whatever you call it, I know that suddenly you are back on the playground, just like I was when I walked by a group of 9-year-old boys hitting that big red ball at the park the other day.
I remember that recess was the magical moment of every day of elementary school.  However, the games you played changed a little as you went through the grades.  At first it was games where you chased each other like lunatics or pretended to be superheroes trapped inside the metallic fortress of the monkey bars.  Maybe you hid under the slide and played “lava monster” for what seemed like hours.
When I started school, the coolest thing to do was play unicorns.  Of course, in my universe, unicorns procreated by laying eggs that looked a whole lot like pine cones.  It was the standard practice to spend recess creating lovely nests out of pine needles and filling it with as many eggs as you could.  This is how you knew your rank on the playground.  Both boys and girls piled up the eggs and waited for their armies of babies to hatch and presumably trample the other nests in a death match to survive.

Once, in second grade, I rushed to get into the recess line, elbowing others out of the way to get to the front.  Even though it was one of the hardest things I had done in my 6 years of existence, I managed to make it out to the trees first.  Using my amazing mother unicorn instincts (and gathering a group of first-graders to do my bidding) I created the MOTHER OF ALL UNICORN NESTS!!  I literally had over 300 eggs full of little baby fledgling unicorns that were about to burst forth and conquer Rainbow World.

Obviously, I’m not the only person who knows this.

In my desire to create the perfect nest, I decided to check the perimeter of the kingdom one last time to ensure my rise to power was complete.  Of course, like in every good tragedy, my hubris was the key to my downfall.  As soon as my back was turned, cute, blond, blue-eyed Amber Grey moved in on my babies and usurped my rightful place as queen.  I was so pissed.  Even the first-graders turned their backs on me.

I am pretty sure that was the first time I used the F-word.

By third grade, I had moved on to the competitive sport of wall-ball.  I was usually one of the few girls who played. The boys at our school played mean and tried to make you lose so most girls just avoided embarrassment.  For the most part, I still remember the line up.

The Weird Kid Who Made Truck Noises – a good player usually, prone to color commentary on everyone’s game (including his own). Trademark Move – The Jab
The Smelly Kid – Hit with both fists full of rage, like he was playing his last all-star baseball game.  If made fun of, would either cry or sock you on the arm.  Trademark Move – The Home Run

The Cute Girl Trying to Impress Everyone – Straight up annoying.  Would make stupid jokes and all the boys laughed.  They would never even try to get her “out”.  Trademark move – The One-Handed Slap

The Monster – This kid either ate growth hormones for breakfast or was technically a college freshman.  He had the faint outline of a moustache and smelled like rotten socks.  Trademark move – The Slam

The Cutest Boy in School – Smart, funny, and totally adorable.  I was totally in love.  He was always the winner because he played smart, not hard. He could always get the ball in the exact place where you couldn’t possibly get to it.  Trademark Move – The Calculated Grounder

Later on, when I was a seasoned 6th grader, we had moved on to the occult.  I am not sure what the other kids were doing (probably still playing handball), but we got together every recess and told each other “true” ghost stories.  Like the one where Christina said that her uncle told her that he had a friend who saw a ghost in his house without a head and her uncle would never lie about something like that.  Or the one about the Ouija Board that couldn’t be destroyed, even after it was put in a fire.  It just showed up the next day on the kid’s front porch smelling like smoke.

Yes, Pure Evil now glows in the dark!!

Regardless about how old you were, recess was the time when you tried on new identities, new ideas and new ways of thinking.  It was the place you had your first closed-mouth kiss and didn’t tell anyone about it.  It was the place where you cried when the mean kid kicked you.  It was the place where you ran behind the playground lady, Mrs. Treaux (rhymes with blue-axe) and called her Mrs. Battleaxe until you peed just a little.

When I saw those boys playing, it took me way back.  I definitely didn’t love every experience I had on the playground, but I’m glad I took it for what it was worth.

Pretending to own a unicorn horde, desperately trying to get the annoying girl out in handball, or telling a story so scary that someone’s mom had to be called to pick her up…these are life lessons distilled into a precious 30 minutes.  The ability to imagine, create, and cooperate are things you still need to survive in the elementary school that is your life.  Now, more than ever, you must recognize the importance of recessing, pulling away from the brittle sharpness of reality and exploring the infinite possibilities.

For all you know, school’s almost out.  Wouldn’t it be sad if you missed recess?


You Have Time for Just One More:

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