Hey ma - I'm going out
We couldn't wait to get outside. Sure, we knew that growing up was supposed
to be about going to school and doing homework, but for us the most important
thing was having fun. As soon as school was over, we'd run home, grab a bite,
and rush outside to take care of our real business, hanging out with our
friends. We'd stay out for as long as we could, stubbornly negotiating for
more time. "Come on, Ma - ten more minutes", we'd yell to the head and
shoulders sticking out from the window above, "we just got here."
Hanging out was our time, when we didn't have to deal with the annoyances of
family life. We'd be with our friends traveling the range of our
imaginations, placing ourselves at the heights of glory -- Koufax pitching
against the Mick in a game seven; or down in the gutter -- inventing a new
game with bottle caps. We were constrained only by ourselves and answered to
no one but ourselves (perhaps until a fight broke out and someone went crying
home to Mom).
We played all kinds of games, but most of our activities involved a ball.
City kids played "official", "legit" ball games like baseball, football, and
basketball - but we also had a whole range of less formal ball games to draw
upon for fun. These games had simple rules, needed few people and took almost
no time to get going. Some like punchball required some coordination (picking
a captain and choosing sides), others, like stoopball were usually just a
quick "pick-up" game with a couple of guys. The games could be the center
point of attention, but they usually occurred while the main event, hanging
out, took place.
That's how it was, just you and your pals. It wasn't about having your mom
schedule a play date with another mom; it wasn't about organized sports
(though we did do Little League). You didn't need organization, time,
planning, parental approval, or equipment. You made creative use of the urban
landscape. Fields of play were the sidewalks, streets, walls and stoops.
Bases were cars, lamp posts and garbage cans. Equipment was minimal and
usually consisted of typical household items, but there was one thing that was
indispensable: a rubber ball.