Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back When I Was a Girl Part 2: Summer Games

So in my kvetching about my kids not using their imaginations or playing outside, one of my childhood friends, Cynthia, posted in the comments about how we played a game called Mean Brenda.

People were curious. Two people. So I'm going to tell you about it.

I definitely remember playing Mean Brenda, but I didn't remember all of the details, so I had to e-mail Cynthia.

First, some background.

When people ask where I'm from originally, I say Columbus, Ohio. But here's the deal, I didn't really live in Columbus. I say that because that's a city people will know. If the person I'm talking to is from Ohio, I'll usually say, "I grew up in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus." Then they usually immediately form the opinion that I'm probably a snob.

But the geographic fact of the matter is, I'm actually from an even smaller community within Worthington called Riverlea. It was just two main streets running east and west and then multiple side streets. Population? Heck, I don't know. Two hundred houses? We had our own mayor (they still do). We had our own Fourth of July celebrations, Christmas luminarias, etc. Living in Riverlea was a little bubble within the bubble of Worthington.

Summer days might find a bunch of us running around through backyards, skateboarding down driveways (broken arms, notwithstanding), riding our bikes with banana seats to the ravine that seemed so far from our house back then, but in reality, it's about the length of three footballs fields away. We could walk or ride bikes by ourselves to the pool, the library, uptown Worthington where there was a bakery (Worthington Bakery--even thinking about the smell of cinnamon buns is making me delerious), an ice cream store or two (Friendly's, Dairy Queen), a candy store (Sadie's Emporium).

Dang, we had it good.

Anyway, while we sometimes ran in a gang, more often than not, we were with the girls who lived seven houses down from us--Cynthia and Beth. I'm sure they don't mind me outing them here. Or if they do, it's too late.

Truly, they are our oldest friends. I mean that in a good way. Many of my friends, I met when I went to kindergarten, but we've known Cynth and Beth since birth. I don't ever remember not knowing them. There are so many funny stories about us growing up, but I won't bore you with the details.

So I had to get confirmation from Cynthia, but as I mentioned, one of the games we played over and over again was Mean Brenda. I definitely remember playing it. The scene was usually played out between two rooms--my parents bedroom and Erin's bedroom--just down the hall from each other. Erin was very young at the time--still in a crib. And one of the places we would hide from Mean Brenda was under the crib.

Mean Brenda was basically like an overly dramatic version of playing house. I'm starting to wonder if it was like a mini-soap opera. Heck, my Mom used to watch As the World Turns and Guidling Light back in those days and I loved watching, too (until the year 2000, I might add). So perhaps Mean Brenda has her roots in daytime soaps.

Apparently Cynthia and I took turns being Mean Brenda. I think Tara was always the nice mother. We basically acted out "house" drama and waited for our husbands to get home. As Cynthia pointed out, Mean Brenda's husband was named Steve. Ironically, Cynthia is married to a Steve. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, I'm telling you. Why, oh why, we didn't play a game called, "Mean Brenda Becomes a Millionaire" is beyond me. Foolish children.

So Mean Brenda was mean to everyone. Imagine that. In one "episode," Mean Brenda was ranting and raving about something and trying to get the kids who were hiding under the crib. It was a little bit like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, now that I reflect on it.

And that, my friends, is Mean Brenda. Nothing more, nothing less. But it was something we acted out over and over again--adding on, embellishing.

Cynthia also reminded me that we played "store" in their backyard. We peeled bark off their sycamore tree (apparently that was before enviromentalism took hold) and sold it as chocolate. Flowers were some other store produts. I feel crab apples were somehow involved as well. There were also these weird giant bean pod like thingys. I'd love to know what those were. And then there was that time that Beth and I pulled up all these things we thought were "onions." Turns out, of course, that they were someone's bulbs.

Hide and Seek. Kickball. Ghost in the Graveyard. Sardines. Tag. Freeze tag. Flashlight tag. Marco Polo. Lemonade stands on a hot day. Popsicles.

Great memories, all in someone's backyard.

What will my children's memories of summer be? I will be curious to hear one day.

As Cynthia so rightly put it, "Oh, the days before computers and DS's. All we had were the Mattel football and soccer games."

And we thought we were living large.

I think we really were.


Lucinda said...

Were you one of the cousins who would call for a game of hide & seek, only to "forget" to seek one of the hiders? Or was that Tara?

Good times, being outside...

1dreamr said...

Great post... and so very true. Good old days to be sure.

Marci said...

You know what I remember playing as a kid--Donnie and Marie Osmond with Laurie Slicker on our big wheels (that is so much 80s in one sentence it is a little much!)...of course I always had to be Donnie because i had dark hair and i complained to Laurie about it all the time (Marie had dark hair too)....and we would invent mysteries and adventures in our big wheels (oh and green machines!)....good times!

Kristie said...

What makes me sad about this post is that my kids have no neighbor kids on our street. So while my son is willing to spend time outside shooting hoops, or riding his bike, unless I've had the forethought to arrange for a friend to come over, he does those things by himself. Luck of the draw for where we live, and nothing else. Older neighborhood, primarily older neighbors. But my childhood memories of playing outside are equally made up of the kids we played with ... I'm sad my own kids won't have that.

Anonymous said...

We have lots of neighbor kids and lots of made up games, but none with a name so awesome as "Mean Brenda"!

When I was a kid, we spent hundreds of hours playing "Hide the Spice Can" with friends and cousins. It was great fun, but we could have thought of a clever name for it. I think I may just think of it, forevermore, as "Mean Brenda"!


Laurie said...

I believe I used to tattle on Marci, too, because she would NEVER let me be Donnie! I believe she also used the defense that she had purple underwear or socks, so therefore, she had to be Donnie:) I have been forever scarred because of it!

Marci said...

Laurie--my memory has it that we both wanted to be Marie! And now i am scarred too at the thought of my purple undergarments!!