I grew up on a long city block in Omaha, 13 houses to a side, the first ring of suburbs that now feels like the inner city. There used to be a trolley car between Dundee and Downtown. It is a neighborhood built for walking, not walking for exercise, but for everything. Within four blocks of our house was a grocery, a dairy, a gas station, a diner, a bar and grill, a drug store with a soda fountain where we used to hang out after school, and a movie theatre, where I first saw Rear Window, and that haunting scene where Grace Kelly gets caught snooping in the apartment across the way, and then caught signaling behind her back to James Stewart who she knows is watching through his telephoto lens, the ring she has stolen, evidence of murder. The man who they have been spying on for days and nights on end, frowns at her gesturing and looks up, straight into Stewart's camera.
On the walk home, my brother told me that Grace Kelly died of a brain aneurysm, which he was sure to emphasize, could happen to any one at any time. I fell into a 7-day funk until my mom couldn't stand it any longer and during dinner demanded to know what was wrong with me. "I'm going to die some day!" I sobbed. The family rolled their eyes. Is that it? We all are. Life goes on. Get over it.
There were over 50 kids on the 51st Street block between Howard and Farnam. We played outside and played in basements, attics, bedrooms and garages. Factions were formed. We held court. The oldest was judge. Some of the games we played had designers, manufacturers, patents, and rules listed on the box. Other games were ancient, passed from one child to another over the centuries. Hide and Go Seek. Pickle. Hopscotch. Kickball. Horse. When we jumped rope, we sang songs. When we chose who to be it, we chanted rhymes. We played clapping games and skipping games and games with a circle of string.
No adults had taught us these things. We just knew all the words without knowing how we knew.
For how long have kids been chanting Say Say My Playmate? How far its range?