I lived for the dark. Daytime was alright, and you could have fun if you worked at it hard enough, but the real juice hit after the sun had dropped below the mountains and the last shadow lengthened and joined the velvet black.
In the summers of the mid ‘70’s, soccer moms just didn’t exist in my little suburb of heaven. We didn’t have every moment of our lives scheduled for fear that our development would be impaired and we’d be…GASP…only normal. Most of us had nowhere special to be, so we were everywhere.
During the daylight hours we rode bicycles and skateboards all over our neighborhood and most of the adjacent ones. Our mothers assumed we’d come home when we were hungry, and we did… unless one of our friends was having something we liked better. But the real fun couldn’t happen until it was fully dark outside.
Other kids in other neighborhoods in big scary cities like Cheyenne might have been afraid of the dark. Not us. We reveled in it. The dark was our place, our time.
After dinner we’d gather on a porch in the neighborhood. Ten or eleven kids – from seven or eight years old right up into high school. The teenagers usually had a record player with a 45 on it – Love Will Keep Us Together, by The Captain and Tennille, was a favorite. We’d wait, watching the light fade.
When it was finally judged dark enough, it would begin.
“Dustin, you’re it.” One of the older teenagers would pronounce the judgment. “Start counting – and NO counting by tens…we’ll be listening!”
The unlucky kid would bury his hands in his face and turn to face the corner of the porch. “One…two…three…four…” We’d all scatter like beads of mercury out of a shattered thermometer.
The rules were simple:
2. Don’t get found
You could hide anywhere except in a fenced yard, of which there were only two. Both yards held dogs that were friendly enough in the day, but less welcoming when it was dark and a silent form was dropping over the fence unexpectedly.
Smaller kids had the advantage of being able to squeeze into tight areas. But they were twitchy – likely to leap from a perfectly good spot in panic if the seeker happened to venture close.
Older kids found pockets of deeper darkness to hide in…often in plain sight in the middle of someone’s front yard. So patient and calm, you could step on them without knowing they were there until your foot came down on something squishy instead of the crunchy grass you were expecting. Screams and giggles bounced from yard to yard.
The last kid found was the new seeker, and the game went on. Disputes arose and were settled without the interference of adults. Teenagers hid in more obvious places, or sneezed conspicuously when the seekers were young, and then returned to their cutthroat techniques when one of their own came looking.
No worries about strangers. No worries about terrorists. No worries about mosquito-borne illnesses. There was just the thrill of evading capture in the dark, the adrenaline of the familiar changed by darkness into an exciting battleground.
Play continued until the screen doors opened at some unheard signal, spilling light and revealing teenage bodies scattered on yards like casualties of a bloodless war. Small, unkempt heads rose from evergreen bushes like woodland sprites. Miniature mechanics slid out from under parked cars.
Back in the familiar, we’d trudge for home and the waiting bath we all desperately needed.
This post is a response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club to write about a game we played when we were young. Growing up in Wyoming, summer nights were cool (often chilly), and very very very dark. Hide & Seek with all the kids in the neighborhood was a nightly ritual we loved. Thank you for stopping by, and please leave comments and critique!