When my dad’s side of the family gathered at Mom Mom and Pop Pop’s house for July 4th or any other backyard barbeque-type event, the adults played games. As a very active, tomboyish girl, all I wanted was to be old enough to play. It looked like they were having the time of their lives playing croquet, bocce, badminton and horseshoes.
But the children were not allowed to participate when the adults were competing. We were assigned to babysit our little cousins. To diminish their guilt as well as pay us for watching the babies, we were bribed with homemade cookies and pies.
They had a blast, but the adults also seemed to take the yard sports seriously. Courts and fields were measured and marked per official rules. Many a squabble could be heard over line calls and rule interpretations. I even recall a bit of good natured trash talking amongst some of my favorite aunts and uncles.
The outdoor sports arguments were nothing like adult fights over how to spend money or when the car was supposed to be inspected. When our parents, adult relatives and their friends disagreed over which bocce ball was closer, they were grinning and making jokes.
Last weekend, I found myself among a crowd of adult friends on a regulation wiffle ball field. Meats were sizzling on the grill, lawn chairs surround the field and we divided into teams of three. I jumped at the chance to be a team captain.
It didn’t take long for me to put together a good natured, trash talking, all-girl team—I can get a little sexist when it comes to competing with the boys. It also didn’t take me long to catch on to the official rules. Apparently, I’d grown up playing wiffle ball based on softball rules rather than official wiffle ball rules. Our good friend straightened us out.
We had to pitch overhand. While up at bat, we had to hit within a precisely measured, chalked and flagged cone-shaped field. The location where the ball hit the ground determined whether we’d hit a single, double, triple or home run. There were no bases to run, so we used ghost-baseball rules once the ball was put into play.
The wiffle field was in our friends’ front yard, so the games caused a bit of rubbernecking from passersby. There were several double takes, no doubt from people trying to figure out the ages of the young’ns playing outside. We certainly were not acting our ages.
It felt great to be outside pitching, fielding and hitting wiffle balls. The long, thin yellow bat felt great in my hands. From a distance, I’m sure it did look like a pickup game of teens cutting up and playing loudly. We all felt like kids that afternoon.
Admittedly, the next day many of us were feeling much older than our years as the soreness, aches and pains settled in. Considering what was sore, I can attest to the fact that the sport offers a great ab, butt and oblique workout.
Even the day-after pain was not enough to keep us from saying we’d have to play wiffle ball more often. Hubby and I are adding it to our summer cookout games list, which already includes our new bocce and croquet sets—we found a great sale—badminton and my dad’s homemade corn hole boards.
The wiffle experience also made me realize these outdoor activities should not be restricted to summertime. We should be playing them year round on beautiful, sunny days. Our parents were on to something when they sent us outside on the 280 days a year it was above 32 degrees and not raining.
The wiffle games also helped me understand why my parents, aunts and uncles loved playing yard sports without the kids. The adults simply needed some time to BE the kids. From the great exercise to the extreme fun with friends, yard sports provide a wormhole back to our youth. For an afternoon, we get to be carefree, silly and hopped up on happiness like we were for the majority of our youth.
After last weekend, I’ve decided to add wormholes to my Christmas present list for friends and family. Won’t the kids be surprised when their parents are the ones receiving a brand new wiffle bat with a bag of wiffle balls?
It will be good for the little ones to see that look of pure joy and wonder spread across the face of a cherished adult. And once that look melts away—but before the smile dissipates—I plan to challenge the happy adult with a little good natured trash talk.
In the meantime, from our warm and happy home to yours, I wish you and yours a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. May your holiday table be overflowing with laughter, love and happiness.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of “Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville.” She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org