Out of natural instinct I immediately punched her back with a “What was that for, you jerk?!”
Through her mix of laughter and pain she replied, “Didn’t you ever play that as a kid?”
“Play what?” I asked, confused.
I raised an indignant eyebrow. “What is a ballgazer?”
“You know, when you make a circle with your fingers and rest it on your thigh. Then when someone looks they are ball gazing so you’re supposed to punch them.”
“And, um, how exactly am I able to gaze at yours? Seeing as how you don’t have any.”
“You know what I mean. We used to play it in school.”
“Let me get this straight…you punched me for not looking since you don’t have any.”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
A pause. “…you suck.”
I find that most conversations with her tend to go this way.
This exchange got us talking about all of the games we used to play as kids. Though I quite obviously never heard of her supposed Ballgazer I was quick to recall MASH. I’m not sure that guys will remember this one as it’s predominantly played by girls.
It was played on paper and was a sort of elementary school fortune telling. “MASH” stood for “Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House” and was supposed to tell you which superstar you were supposed to marry, how many kids you would have, what type of car you drove, where you lived, etc. The catch of this game was that in each category you had to throw one awful choice into the pool for the fortune to choose from.
Who doesn’t remember Cooties and Cootie shots? When you were in the third grade there was nothing more devastating than being told that you are a carrier of the dreaded Cooties. You didn’t even have to do anything. You could be sitting with your friends playing on the jungle gym and little Jimmy comes running over to inform you that you have been infected. And I’m willing to bet that those children, like myself, had no idea what a cootie was. Then you would have to halt your play to give yourself the antidote. “Circle, circle, dot, dot. Now you’ve had your Cootie shot.”
Very few kids would speak while jinxed because they didn’t want to get punched in the arm. Funny…a punch in the arm when you are an adult is nothing and you’d just rather get it over with but when you’re a kid it’s the end of the world. Parents made use of this tactic too. The anticipation was almost always worse than the punishment.
We arrived at our destination, still discussing our childhood games. She reminded me about how you always had to hold your breath when you passed by a cemetery. I never did this one but I knew a lot of people who did. I couldn’t imagine being afraid of this superstition. What if you got stuck at a light in front of the cemetery? Or if you had to go inside for a funeral or to retrieve your Frisbee?
I recalled with laughter the ole “Step on a crack, break your momma’s back” chant. This one didn’t hold the power for me that it held for others since I didn’t live with my mother growing up. I would step on cracks with no fear, much to the horror of my grade school companions.
I made a face. “What’s with you and all of the punching games? Besides…we still play that one. I don’t think it counts.”
We drove home, our stomachs hurting from all of the laughter. It became apparent that the passing years hadn’t done much for our level of maturity when a car passed us with one headlight and we each threw a fist up to the roof of the car and yelled, “POPEYE!”
“I said it first!” she insisted.
“No way! You were like twelve seconds later than me!”
“This conversation isn’t twelve seconds later!”
“Is too infinity!”
“Infinity isn’t allowed!”
I grinned. “…well, screw you jerk!”