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    karen“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”

    “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day…”

    “Ring around the rosies, a pocket full of posies…we all fall down…”

    Okay so that last one doesn’t make much sense. Yet, I recall singing all kinds of silly ditties from my childhood that didn’t have deep meaning; they simply made us kids feel good.

    I am happy to report that while I had my two granddaughters with me for a spell this summer, they played some of the same hand-slapping games with silly songs I remember from my Southeast Bronx childhood. I am relieved that their parents — both school teachers — believe that children need to play. What I get to do as the grandmother is encourage them to play outside.

    Although I grew up in a densely populated urban area, it was unheard of for kids to stay indoors. My friends and I laugh when we reminisce about the favorite word of our childhoods: OUTSIDE! We lived to go outside. It did not take a great deal of parental coaxing to get us to play outdoors. When we had chores to do — which is another article — we were miserable because it delayed our opportunities to play outside.

    Things are very different today. It took my mom and I many days to convince my grandchildren, eight and ten years of age, to play outside in my huge back yard. Every time we asked them to play outside, they held hands and shook their sweet heads “No!” One day, my mother simply sat outside on the deck, reading, eating her sandwich, doing search word puzzles, and the curiosity of the girls drove them to peek at her from the rear doorway. Gradually, they inched their way to the deck and sat outdoors in the radiant sunlight playing their hand games and singing ditties like “Miss Mary Mack.” The next day, I bought a couple of large balls for them to play with and they made it to the back yard. Then, one of them asked if they could play in the front yard too. When it was time for the girls to return home to Chicago, they both remarked that the best part of being at Grandma Karen’s house is that they get to play outside any time they like.

    Well, that certainly makes it worthwhile for me to continue paying the mortgage! Grown-ups can sit idly and lament days gone by when children could freely play in parks and on playgrounds. Yet, I prefer to share in their fun, create safe spaces for play, and provide opportunities for children to use their imaginations. I especially love sharing in the silly songs and rhythmic ditties.

    After all, we’re grown up and we still love ditties, like “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re everywhere…get used to it!” The last part has some attitude but we need it. It comes with being queer and playful. And we grown up kids need to feel good too!

    Karen Williams loves to play. Share how you play…