I know I've mentioned it before, at least in passing. Parks and playgrounds. Venice Island has a lot of them. A surprising number in fact considering what a relatively small place it is. And it's one of the things that we love about living here. Loads of parks. Green spaces with grass and trees and flowers and benches are just so inviting. And actually I love hearing the sound of children talking and laughing as they play outside. It's happy noise.
Just about a block from our house is Epiphany Catholic Church and School. On a pleasant weather day, when the windows are open in the house I can actually hear not just the church bells but sometimes also the screams of delight, the giggles and excited chatter of little ones at play during recess. I have no idea what games they are playing or what they are doing but I know they are having a good time doing it.
It occurred to me just the other day that the one thing I'm not hearing as they play are jump rope songs. Hmmmm. Are kids not playing jump rope anymore? Or are they just not singing jump rope songs while they do so. I have no idea. Probably it's just too old school, too old fashioned.
I have such strong memories of playing jump rope both in my own driveway and on the school playground at recess. It was one of the few remotely athletic endeavors that I was any good at, actually, which is probably why it stands out in my mind. Some kids knocked around a baseball, other were all about the monkey bars or the swings. Dodge ball, tether ball, basketball and 4-square (another ball game), spheres of one sort or another kind of ruled the playground back then. But there were always a few hold outs, usually girls, who took the time and effort to chalk a hop scotch and gather a few pebbles to play that game. And then there was the jump rope contingent.
I loved jump rope. I wasn't especially great at it but I could do it which was exciting to me. In fact, I could even jump double dutch! Woohoo! And even though by the end of the session we were sweaty and hot and out of breath, it was so much fun! There were a lot of jump rope songs that we sang as we jumped but the only one I remember all the way through was done as a call and response. The jump rope twirlers sang a line, then the jumper sang the next line and repeat. It went like this:
Twirlers: "Ding a ling a ling sir, may I come in sir"
Jumper: "no sir"
Twirlers: "why sir"
Jumper "Coz I have a cold sir"
Twirlers: "Where'd you get the cold sir"
Jumpers: " At the North Pole sir"
Twirlers: "What you doing there sir"
Jumper: "Catching Polar Bears Sir"
Twirlers " How many polar bears did you catch?"
And then the fast jumping would commence. The twirlers picked up the speed and the jumper would hop like mad over the rope as it slapped the ground and everyone counted. Whatever number was called out last before the jumper faulted was the number of polar bears caught and obviously the higher the number, the better the jump roper!
Yes yes I know, nowadays it's probably an insensitive song. Why is there the assumption that everyone is male (the constant repeat of "sir" through the song)? Why are they catching endangered animals? (Polar Bears) The rudeness of going to someone's house without calling ahead and asking to be allowed inside their home! (yeah that is kind of rude). I don't know what to tell you. It was a children's nonsense song and it was a different time. Sue me. At least the jumper was trying to socially distance since he was sick, right?
I know they still sell jump ropes in stores, I've seen them. Usually in sports supply stores. And they are snazzy. They have perfectly weighted handles made out of some sort of material that doesn't get too hot, is easy to hold on to and doesn't leave friction burns and the rope itself isn't actually rope, it's some polystyrene sort of thing. I have no idea what it is. But I don't think it's intended for use by children. It's fitness minded adults jumping rope now.
Our jump ropes were sometimes actual rope with electricians tape around the ends to be used as a handle. Other times it was something ropelike (not sure what it was to be honest) but the handles were wood. Mine had green painted handles. Joy's were red. Ahhh nostalgia.
The jump rope song just reminded me of other songs we sang on the playground. We didn't have a name for it but I think now it's called a rhythmic hand claps or some such thing. We just did them, we didn't name them. There were different sorts of hand claps and/or snaps and/or gestures and/or other motions. They went from very easy to relatively complex (even though the songs were still as monumentally stupid as the jump rope songs). The two participants would sit or stand facing each other and do the mirrored clap or gesture or snap or whatever of the other while singing the song. Let's see if I can recall one of those:
"Love grow under the wide oak tree
Sugar flows like candy
Top of the mountain shines like gold
And you keep your little fellow sort of handy
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Dream
Under the wide oak tree oh
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Dreams
Some for you and me oh."
Like I said, stupid lyrics. Another one just popped into my head. Not sure I know all of it: Let's see how does that one go:
"I had a little sister
Her name was Sally Sue
I put her in the bathtub
To see what she would do, do, do
She drank up all the water
She ate up all the soap
She tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn't go down her throat throat throat."
Let's not get into the no-no land of keeping our fellow sort of handy or the unhealthiness of eating sweets or the fantasy of golden mountaintops. And I would prefer to not talk about the child endangerment involved in the second song either. When we sang them, the songs were innocent and silly and fun. We weren't gong to actually allow any little sisters to eat soap or drink bathwater for heaven's sakes! There were no polar bears harmed in the singing of the jump rope song.
They were just silly children's songs. They were equally ridiculous but they seemed to have secured a place in my memory banks. And here I am, all these years later, kind of annoyed that I am still wasting good memory brain cells on those ditties. Sigh.
But I suppose it doesn't really mater anymore because I'm hearing none of that on playgrounds. I guess kids don't do that now. Or possibly jump ropes are no longer allowed because they could be mis-used to hurt people? We are such a litigious society. And I'm positive the songs would not be allowed anymore. At least not the songs we sang. And we sang them so innocently. There was no ill will intended.
I'm pretty sure there have been nonsense songs and silly children's songs throughout the ages.
They were never intended to be analyzed, or politicized, or scrutinized. They were just funny little songs. If anyone was offended in the reading of this blogpost, be aware that I'm just writing about my memories. I cannot (and if it was possible I would not) go back in time to change things to make them more politically correct to fit current standards. It was how it was. And not how it is.
And looking to the future, I wonder what thing we are saying or doing now will end up being offensive to generations yet to come.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.