PLACE: Grandma & Pop's backyard, Pennsylvania
PRESENT: Siblings and cousins and a few brave neighors sometimes
Once or twice a year, mom would pile me and whatever siblings were available and drive us 10 long, tedious hours to my Grandparents' house near Pittsburgh. We started out with gusto, singing the "Pennsylvania Song" when we hit the border, but quickly peetered out when we realized we still had another 8 hours to go - PA is a loooong state when approached from the northeast.
But the trip was always worth it. Endless bottles - real bottles - of Coke awaited us in Pop's basement fridge. A little circa 1960's thing that was reserved pretty much for Coke bottles. Awesome. Oh and Dilly Bars from the DQ.
If we were lucky, our ohio cousins were visiting at the same time. JO, my age (ok ok 3 weeks younger) and Carol, my bro Flash's age (ok ok a year younger) would play hours and hours of millbourne as we got older and were the only 4 kids around. Jo is the youngest of 5 in her family, conveniently matched up in years with the 5 kids in my family and yep, I'm the youngest.
We had 2 cousins in PA, brother sister, but usually Jimmy was the only one playing. He matched my bro Flash in age.
But better than millbourne, better than a race down to Teckla's for penny candy that would rot our teeth (and God help you if you bought anything GRAPE. Grandma hated the smell of GRAPE!), the best was Hit The Bat. Get the bat, the wiffle ball, and out back we'd go.
It's a simple game, really. You pitch to yourself, hit the ball, while the rest of the kids scramble to get it. If they catch it they're up and you're out, back to the field. if they don't catch it, they have to roll/throw it at the bat that you've placed on the ground. if they Hit The Bat, they're up, and you're back to the field. OH but if it bounces up off the bat and you catch it? You're safe and still up.
Simple game, right? Sounds almost boring? But for some reason it wasn't. we'd play for hours. Trying to hit it over the row of hedges and maybe even into the next yard where you had to "sneak" over or the people would yell at you, and the batter thought that was hilarious. Hitting it so far the fielders called "relay!" and go to throw it to a partner who would hit the bat for you. And then there were the Pop Flys that somehow went backwards so that someone had to go out the secret door to Pop's bedroom and get up on the flat roof to retrieve the ball. That was the coolest. "OH but Grandma we have to go up there - we won't fall don't worry!" (Telling Grandma not to worry was like telling the Pope not to pray).
Simple games in simple times. And age didn't really matter - even when I was five and my brother TJ 16, we could all still play together.
And what jogs this memory in my mind? This past weekend I went up to CT for my nieces' 11th birthday and my sister K's "Annual" party. This year we had Special Guests. WildJim (aunt and Uncle) made the trip and are spending time with my mom and dad. Saturday afternoon, we grabbed the bat and ball and started up a game. We meaning yes Me. And my sisters. And the Aunt half of WildJim. So what if she's in her 60's! Oh we did let my kids play, too. For a little while. there was the shrieking, the giggles, the "RELAYS" and the shoving each other out of the way to get to the ball. Did I forget to tell you that Hit the Bat is a contact sport??
Thanks K and J and Wildjim for bringing back great memories!