This morning I was thinking about all the games my folks used to play with us kids. My memories make it seem like Dad played with us every night after work while we lived in Germany on the base where he served. Sometimes it was “hide the button.” We would close our eyes while he hid the button somewhere in plain sight in the living room. We were completely delighted with that one!
Then there were the “tricks” he would do with us, balancing us as we stood on his hands (he was lying down on his back on the living room floor) and lifting us up over his head. We had lots of versions of that one, and I’m pretty sure we kids thought we could have joined a circus, we were just so talented. Grab-bag was a big hit. Mom and Dad would write down funny things on little slips of paper and put them all in a hat. Then we would take turns drawing one out. We had to do whatever it said. This usually entailed singing a silly song, telling a joke, or doing some amazing stunt like three somersaults. These games were quite big doings in our little lives.
Mom was the one who made the parties happen. My birthday parties were always extravagant, full of games for all the kids, prizes for the winners, and a birthday cake that could have been a cover of a cookbook. She took a cake-decorating class, and we reaped the benefits. Our birthday cakes always had coins wrapped in foil inside, which she put in after the cake was baked and before she frosted it. A quarter, a dime, a nickel, a penny, and a button were the prizes, and I remember all the kids eagerly pounding down their cake with the hope of finding some treasure in there. The coin-in-the-cake tradition lives on in our family. Mom was my Brownie troop leader, sewing and knitting teacher, and role-model for all that was wise, domestic, and feminine.
Whenever Dad had time off, we headed out with our camper, and we saw quite a bit of Europe that way. Since I was so little, I know I’ve forgotten a bunch of what we did and where we went. But I remember the jolly times touring, camping, site-seeing, and having fun. Isn’t that the way it is with kids? It’s more about the relationship and the tone, time, and attention, than it is about the actual destination.
When our kids were growing up, I did my versions of the same games (not the hand balancing tricks…Doug did those). Doug brought his own stock of games and (especially) stories to the family. Our kids’ favorite game of his has to be the sock-and-slipper game. Yep. He would stretch out on the couch, loaded with tightly folded socks, and they would walk across the room with the slippers balanced on their heads, while he fired off the socks, trying to knock the slippers off their heads. This usually happened when I was out (are you surprised?) and I would find socks in the weirdest places.
The other family favorite at our house was the jammy ride, which I have written about elsewhere. We would put the kids to bed, and then after a few minutes, Doug would holler, “Jammy ride!” They would all come tumbling out of bed, we would all jump in the car and go out for ice cream, followed by a stop at the grandparents’ house. Simple fun. Joy in the silly things.