Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Indian Hop

You might think I achieved this graceful, coordinated physique from a childhood and adolescence of playing organized sports, but you'd be wrong. Despite growing up in the South where college and high school football dominates the local news, children grow up thinking the four seasons are baseball, football, basketball, and golf (or, in my house, Nascar), and ALL the other kids in your neighborhood do either church basketball, Little League, or YMCA soccer, I have never played a legitimate team sport. I don't know why. I was a spaz (glad those days are over!), but I figure most kids are and that didn't stop them.

I took things quite literally as a child. Once I was at my cousins' (two boys who have since grown into stellar college athletes) house. My mother, aunt, and grandma carefully explained the rules of baseball to me so I could play with the boys in the yard:

"You have to keep your eye on the ball and when Stephen throws it at you, SWING THE BAT."

I should clarify that this, our version of the Great American Pastime, took place in the front yard. The swingset was located in the backyard. After I wrenched the baseball from Stephen's fingers and held it up against my eye (yes, that's how my four-year-old self interpreted "keep your eye on the ball"), when the poor kid was finally able to pitch it to me, I took off running to the backyard where I proceeded to "swing the bat" in one of those old rusty swings. I would rather have been swinging there myself, or floating in my cousins' new above-ground pool, not playing baseball. It had to have been 987498 degrees outside.

And thus began my absolutely bewildered relationship with baseball. Not understanding the game, I rarely understood baseball metaphors (and American English is FULL of them!). I didn't know what the "bases" meant, for example, until well after I grand slammed my way through them all.

I did do other normal kid stuff- Vacation Bible School, ice skating lessons, Zoo Camp, modern dance class, Space Camp, babysitting your sister, Church Camp. My fondest memories of forced participation in organized athletics (sparse though they are) take place at Church Camp, AKA The Middle of Nowhere. At Camp we had Olympics. My favorite part of the whole enterprise was decorating my team t-shirt in the arts'n'crafts cabin. But though I dreaded the games, this was the only time I ever remember when the rules of the "sports" we had to play were slightly skewed in favor of wiry, timid little kids like myself.

For example, baseball at Camp went like this: there was no limit to the number of people on the bases, no limit to the number of strikes you could get when batting, and best of all, you could hit the ball in any direction you wanted! I liked to bat into the woods, away from the field, so the other team would have to run through trees, briars, poison oak, and hornets' nests in order to retrieve the ball and carry on with the game. Hahahaha!

And I don't know if this counts, but I was particularly skilled at a game called Indian Hop. In Indian Hop, everyone had a balloon tied to one foot, and you had to hop on that foot with your other foot held high off the ground, and stomp on and pop the balloons on the opposing team's feet. I wonder if they've changed the name of Indian Hop in the past fifteen years. Come to think of it, I also wonder if they've changed the name of Kill the President, another terrific Camp game.

My moment of glory, as far as Olympics were concerned, was always during the epic relay race that ended the games. I would start in the cartwheel race, then bolt across the field in time for the wheelbarrow race, then dash to race's final segment where I would sit upon a twin mattress, clutching it for dear life with my sweaty little fingers as my teammates lifted me above their heads and shot full speed ahead towards the finish line, smirking at the other teams who had normal sized kids on top of their mattresses, not scrawny little midgets like me.

I remained a scrawny little midget right up through high school gym class, where I spent a good amount of time amusing my friends by fitting my whole self into a locker. And I was one of the most athletic girls in the class, unencumbered by pregnancy, a heart transplant, or a flat to refusal dress out.

The moral of this story is if you are a non-athletic child like I used to be, but still feel compelled to run around making a fool of yourself, do what I did. Go to drama school. There your physical education will be gruelling but will likely involve swords. I may be hopeless at shooting a lay-up, but if you attack me with a rapier and dagger (provided I'm also armed with a rapier and dagger), I WILL CUT YOU DOWN.


  1. hahaha! True, true. I got more exercise than I've ever had in my life at Governor's school. Way, way more than Wade Hampton gym class

  2. I love hearing your stories about our childhood, because sometimes I forgot how totally insane it was. I still regret the fact that my parents never let me come to Cheraw with you, probably because it was a bible camp featuring chiggers and such non-politically-correct games as Indian Hop and Kill the President.