During recess, we would all have access to check out a rubber ball to play with. There were two sizes: twelve inches in diameter and five inches in diameter. The balls that were twelve inches were always checked out first because all the kids liked to play handball with them against the backboards. It had a larger surface area and was easier to hit with two clasped hands. The five inch balls were always checked out quickly thereafter for various games.
I never really did any active playing during recess. Most of my recess time was taken up by sitting in the grass, looking at bugs, or grinding walnut shells into the pavement. I had tried my hand at tetherball in the past and had either gotten hurt physically or just emotionally from the ridicule resulting from ducking from that damned volleyball on a string.
Just to give a little insight to what I looked like as a kid: At any given time, my hair was either an unkempt rat’s nest or an unkempt rat’s nest hastily pulled back into a ponytail. I had pink, translucent, plastic glasses frames that you could see the wire running through which were too big for my face. My adult-sized teeth could barely fit in my mouth and, just like any other kid, my mouth was usually open. On this day that I’m about to describe, I can’t be sure what I was wearing, but with the frequency that I wore this outfit, I was most likely wearing a Disneyland 35th Anniversary sweatshirt and turquoise stretch pants with pink dots. With my belly full of chicken nuggets and canned corn, I walked slowly along the pavement playground. All the other children were already well into their recess activities and I noticed that there was one five inch diameter ball left. I figured “what the hey” and I checked it out.
The truth is, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this ball. Any other time I thought about checking out a ball, I always thought that I didn’t want to check one out because I didn’t want to take it from one of the other kids that would actually put it to good use. Plus this was one of the smaller ones, and it was harder to play with. But that day was different, there was one left while all the other kids were already playing, like it was waiting for me.
I took the ball to an unclaimed part of the playground and started to lightly kick the ball against a short wall that came up to about the height of my childhood knee. It ricocheted off the wall and calmly rolled back to me. By this time, most of recess time had passed, and it turned out to be pretty fun. With about ten minutes left, a little girl came up to me and asked if I would like to kick the ball back and forth with her. I said “sure”, though I was a bit nervous and self conscious about my athletic abilities. The distance between us widened and my coordination was really being put to the test. We were kicking the ball and also tossing it with one bounce before catching it.
Things were going well and a few more kids came over to play. Without laying out any ground rules, we had created this game where I was the main thrower and I would call out a person and throw or kick the ball to them, they would catch it, and throw the ball back to me. There wasn’t any mystery to the game, except that I made the way I got the ball to them a surprise. I would dropkick it, roll it, or bounce it. I didn’t know any of these peoples’ names, so I started to make nicknames for everybody to call on them before I threw the ball. For example, the girl who initially asked me to play was wearing a sky blue sweatshirt, so I nicknamed her “Sky”. I explained this to her when I called her Sky. I called somebody else “Happy” and said it was because they looked so happy to be living the day and I got LAUGHS, even from Happy. I was playing on a playground with other kids, my hand-eye coordination was on point, and I was feeling the crowd and got genuine laughs that only a nine year old comedian could. I was on fire.
I never talked to any of those kids again, but for those ten minutes, I ruled the playground. I was the Queen of Recess.