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  Updated 1-2-08




























Playtime for Kiddies

By Brian L. Thompson

There we were at my job’s end-of the year picnic, showing off my little 4-month-old baby to co-workers and handing her around to people who had passed the 43-question test (with essay) we require before you can handle little Amelie.

My eyes became transfixed on a group of kids in the corner of the yard, all hootin’ and hollerin’ while blasting a little red ball at each other trying to take someone’s knee cap off.

"That’ll be you soon," somebody said, noticing my gaze as I bounced the baby.

I stared starry-eyed and muttered, "yeah." And then it occurred to me, "no." He didn’t mean me! He meant that will be Amelie one day. She will be out there playing, whoopin’ it up with the other kids, and by the size of her, beating them up and stepping on them with her massive size 62 shoes that are usually worn by circus bears to keep their snaggly toenails from tearing up the carpet.

He meant her, not me!

But I wanted to be out there with them … in the mix … whoopin’ it up … gettin’ crazy … gettin’ grass stains on my pants … messin’ up my hair … rolling in the grass until I itched so bad I thought my skin would fall off.

Not her. Me!

Look at ‘em. It’s summertime. Daylight savings time is back. The air is warm. The grass is thick and there’s playin’ to do. Lots of it.

I wanted the red ball. Do you know how far I could kick that thing? I almost ran out to the pack and screamed: "Hey, I can kick the ball over that house."

Remember doing that as a kid? Everybody crowded back, you licked your lips and gave it your best whack. Straight up it went, and straight down it came, whistling like a falling bomb. Kids ran screaming for cover, and it always smacked right into your mom’s car, leaving a nice big dent in the hood.

So you tried again …

These were the things you did when you had 17 Cokes in you, 22 cupcakes and a 5 lb. bag of sugar you’d eaten with a ladle. The uncontainable energy would build up until it bubbled out like molten lava desperate for a way to free itself. To set it loose, all you had to do was run wild like an antelope with its hind quarters on fire. As you lost steam, and control of your senses, you crashed into a tree.

There, in the childhood equivalent of public drunkenness, an arm bent backward or blood trickling from your forehead, you panted like a wild dog and for the first time noticed that the world was, in fact, spinning … and there were dancing cows over by the swing set.

"You OK?" some worried parent would rush over to ask. Unable to contain your wobbly head or the goofy grin that had sprawled out across your face, that little brain uttered a canned line saved for just such occasion: "Me? Fine. I need another soda, though."

And off this adult would trot to help renew your sugar fix.

Climbing trees. Falling out of trees. Can you remember landing squarely on your back and the hollow thud it made as every bit of air was forced out of your lungs? Why was it fun lying there gasping and trying to grip the air with your hands to force it into your mouth? But it was.

I miss it. I miss it so much. Won’t be long before my little one can get out there. Can mix it up. And I will have to watch from the sidelines, and dream. Dream of my childhood and falling out of trees and getting beamed by balls with my knee caps nearly flying off. I’ll live through her vicariously … or just maybe I’ll jump in and try to boot a ball over a house.

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Brian Thompson is a former journalist in St. Augustine, Florida, where he writes a weekly humor column called "Life in a Nutshell" for the The St. Augustine Record. His topics range from the proper way to lose a load of lumber out the back of a pickup truck to soiled baby diapers that could peel paint off the wall. He is a short story writer and the public information director at Flagler College, where he also teaches future journalists on the college's newspaper bad habits. You can read his columns online at Nutshell City and reach him at [email protected]

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