When we were kids we hardly dared to utter the phrase, knowing only too well what horror would ensue. We were sure to be told we could clean our rooms, mow the grass, pull weeds or shovel out the garage. We knew we would never be invited to take ourselves swimming or to the movies (even if we had the fifty-cents admission, our folks were not always keen on the summer showings at the Washington or the Main).
Thankfully, we had an older sister and a mom with boat loads of imagination. And if we were lucky, mom might come up with some idea that while simple and rather bland on examination, had the allure of sounding brilliant and thrilling in its initial impression.
The one I remember best was the Penny Walk. It might have been called the Penny Hike or the Penny-something-else. The name doesn't matter. The important thing is when it was the end of June and you thought you would never find anything interesting to do again, the words "Penny Hike" fired instant imaginings of thrilling possibilities.
Now to the blandness. Here's how it worked. We were given a penny, told to walk to the first corner and toss the coin. If it came up heads, turn left - tails, turn right. At the next corner, repeat the process.
Sounds great, right? And in the 1960s when kids were allowed to be away from the house all afternoon, as long as they stayed out of trouble and reported home in time for supper, a great way to occupy a long day with nothing to do. Trouble was, we were never sure what counted as a real "corner". The first one was easy. But soon enough came a time we had to cross the street and we found ourselves on - you guessed it - another corner. Or was it another corner? Were we supposed to toss the coin again right away, or continue on to the end of that block? There was too much room for argument. And for rule bending.
Too soon we started adapting what had been a truly simple concept. What if the coin landed on the grass instead of the sidewalk? What if it landed on an angle, say in the crack between the sidewalk and the grass? I tell you, bored kids could complicate a great idea in no time flat. And inevitably, the worst happened.
After the first couple blocks, we started to catch on that we were really just walking up and down the street (or at best, around the block). What kind of game was that? We could walk around the block any time. This was no fun, it was just a trick to get us to . . . . . light always did dawn slowly for Brents, or at least for me.
But wasn't my mom brilliant? I told you she was! For the cost of a penny, the hundredth part of a dollar, a slim shiny sliver of copper, she had us out of the house and out of her hair for - well - if not an afternoon, at least as long as it took us to get halfway down the block. And to the mom of six unruly kids, that was enough time for her own personal trip to heaven - or at least for a blissful 20 minutes of kid-free time to herself.
You gotta lover 'er. She sure knew what she was doing. And if you're lucky, I'll tell you about my sister sometime.
Quotable Quotes; In the category Yeah, And We All Know Who Invented The Internet, Too, Don't We???!!!
"If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance." Bern Williams