One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was jump rope. I could go and go and go, jumping on my own, but the most fun was jumping with other little girls. Two girls would turn the rope and one or more girls would jump, until they missed and has to take turns turning the rope so the other girls could jump. We never did anything fancy like Double-Dutch, but I remember some of the rhymes we jumped to……
I’m a little Dutch girl dressed in blue
These are the duties that I must do
Salute to the captain, curtsey to the queen
Turn my back on the dirty submarine
I can do the hootchie-kootchie, I can do the twist
I can do the turn-around and I can do the split
I’m a little Dutch girl dressed in green
My mother didn’t want me so she sent me to the queen
The queen didn’t want me so she sent me to the king
The king said he’d take me if I’d count to 15
(then you had to jump 15 times without missing)
Mable Mable set the table
Don’t forget the red hot pepper
(you had to jump really fast after you said “pepper” until you missed
Cinderella dressed in yella
Went downstairs to meet her fella
On the way her girdle busted
How many years was she disgusted?
(then jump as many times as you can without missing)
Lincoln, Lincoln, I’ve been thinkin’
What the heck have you been drinkin’
Tastes like vinegar, smells like wine
Oh my gosh, it’s turpentine
George Washington never told a lie
So he went around the corner (jump out, run around one of the turners and jump back in)
To buy a cherry pie
How many cherries were in that pie?
(then jump as many times as you can without missing)
Operator, operator give me number nine
Sorry, sorry, you have to be on time
(one girl has to jump out and the next girl jump in so that the turners are never turning the rope for nobody; if you don’t jump in on time you have to be a turner and one of the turners gets to be a jumper. This was most fun played at a school recess with a lot of other girls)
Not last night but the night before
24 robbers came knocking at my door
As I ran out, they ran in
I asked them what they wanted and this is what they said
Spanish dancer, do the twist
Spanish dancer, do the kick
Spanish dancer, turn around
Spanish dancer, touch the ground
Spanish dancer, show your shoe
Spanish dancer, 24-skidoo
I remember, too, the little rhymes we used to determine who would be “It” in hide-and-seek or various forms of tag. We all put out Keds-clad feet in a circles and someone counted off pointing to a foot for each word. The last foot left belonged to the person who would be “It”….
Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish.
How many pieces do you wish?
(Whoever’s foot the word “wish” landed on picked a number and the counter spelled it, still counting off, for example…)
T-W-O spells two and that means you will not be it
Ocka bocka, soda crocka
Ocka bocka boo
In comes Uncle Sam
And out goes Y-O-U
Eeny meeny miney moe
Catch a tiger* by the toe
If he hollers let him go
Eeny meen miney moe
(Sometimes followed by: My mother told me to pick this very best one)
*Some children used the N-word in place of tiger, but the mothers in our neighborhood would angrily correct any child who did that. The parents in my 1960s neighborhood had the typical prejudices of northern white people of that era, but they did consider the N-word to be vulgar and inappropriate. The correct terms for the people who picked up our trash and Sammy Davis Jr (pretty much the only African-Americans we ever saw or heard of) were “Negro” or “colored”.
Do you remember jump rope and other rhymes from your childhood? Help me collect them by posting on my site
Many people remember their childhood as an enchanted time. I don’t remember mine that way at all. I remember childhood as mostly happy, but not magical in any way. I had my share of fanciful notions. I believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Boogie Man. I thought the nighttime insect chirpings were the sound the stars made as they shone. I was afraid of the dark, big dogs, mean teachers and big, mean boys. But, mostly, my childhood seemed concrete and prosaic. The predominant feeling was that the world made sense and I could master it. I was a curious, sensitive, energetic little girl and my childhood was a perfect preparation for a life of action.
Like most children in the 1960s, I spent most of my time outdoors. From the age of 4, I was allowed the run of our block, and by the time I was 8 I had the run of our neighborhood on my bike. There were usually other kids to play with, or I would just wander by myself in the woods at the bottom of our hill, feeling like the first person ever to discover the valleys and woodland wildflowers and the little stream.
There were two very large families in our neighborhood and the children of these families dominated and bullied the rest of us. Social skills were survival skills in that environment, and we learned them pretty quickly. We learned to decide when to submit, when to fight back, and when to form alliances – and what it felt like both to betray and be betrayed. I also learned to get on my bike and seek more congenial friends further afield.
We learned co-operation and leadership skills by organizing and playing group games like Red Rover, Statues, Mother May I, Tag, Hide-and-Seek, and Red Light Yellow Light. We would play until the streetlights came on and we had to report in to our mothers
We were taught at school by dour, no-nonsense, mostly middle-aged, teachers who did not spare the rod. We learned mostly by rote: how to spell, how to read, how to do arithmetic, the rules of grammar and later the rules of science. There was little notion that learning should be fun or entertaining, and group learning would have been considered a form of cheating. We were well-prepared for a work world that was already rapidly disappearing by the time we reached adulthood: a world where you did what you were told and did the same thing every day for 40 years.
I rarely had trouble sleeping and was hardly ever sick after my tonsils came out. Middle-class food in the 1960s was pretty plain and unexciting, and I was usually too busy playing to take much time to eat. So, I wasn’t a big eater, but I was a fast eater. I didn’t mind being dirty. It didn’t bother me to go to bed with dust on my legs, dirt under my fingernails, with my arms and legs stinging from cuts and bites. I was a healthy little animal, nothing enchanted at all, happily fit for a human life.
I’d love to hear from my readers about whether you feel like your childhood felt enchanted. What era did you grow up in? How did childhood feel to you. Leave a reply on the site.
It took me a while to really get started on my project to celebrate each decade of my life. This little annoying thing called My Actual Life Right Now kept getting in the way. But I did some fun things over the past couple of months to celebrate the first decade of my life:
1. In honor of my lifelong passion for reading, I donated 5 children’s books to the Grow Up Great book drive at work.
2. I took my mom out to lunch and told her what a great mom she’d been, how she had influenced me, and how her good example has broadened to the people whose lives I’ve influenced. We both cried.
3. My mom and I took a field trip to the apartment building where she & my dad lived for the first 4 years of their marriage and the first 3 years of my life. My mom told me some funny stories about myself as a child (for example: I was a 2-year-old shoplifter. Did I steal candy like any normal child? No. I took a book. Of course). We both cried again.
4. I did a bunch of things things that I enjoyed doing as a child. I went sled riding, I took walks in the woods, I re-read my favorite childhood books, and, geekiest thing of all, Al and I went to the town in Minnesota where my favorite childhood books were set. My very favorite books were the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace. The books were based on her own childhood in Mankato and you can go there and still see many of the sites mentioned in the book. Betsy’s and Tacy’s houses have even been turned into a little museum, which was my idea of heaven. See pictures below.
Here’s my mom in front of the apartment building where she spent her newlywed years. My dad’s grandfather owned the building at the time. My dad had lived there with his grandfather when he was in college and later lived there by himself as a bachelor. This is where I lived until I was 3, when my parents bought the house my mom lives in now.
Here I am in front of my shrine, Betsy’s house. It is restored to look as it did in 1897, the year the series begins. We also visited other locations from the stories that are still standing, such as the old Carnegie Library and other friends’ houses from the books. I loved these books because of the warmth of family life and friendship that they portrayed, the lively characters and the great historical detail about what they wore, what they ate, etc.
I’ll have a couple more childhood blog posts coming up, and then it will be on reading my diaries from my teenage years, all of which I still have.
I will turn 60 this year. I have to be honest: I really, really hate that. I just sounds so much older than I feel. So I decided to make it less awful by spending this whole year honoring the good life that I’ve had so far. My plan is to spend one month this year on each decade of my life. I will thank someone who had a positive influence on me, or did something nice for me, in that decade. I’ll try to reconnect with someone from that decade with whom I had lost touch. I will make an offering of some kind to honor something that was meaningful to me in that decade. I’ll do things that I enjoyed doing in that decade. And I’ll reflect on that period in my life, what I learned, what it meant, how it influenced what came later.
I’ll blog along the way, sharing the results of my activities and memories of the different stages of my life. I’ll also ask for comments from others on how they remember the same period of their lives. So follow along and please share your own memories on my site!