Recess: every child’s favorite subject, right? Actually, I enjoyed most school subjects (with the exception of gym which I loathed and English which was just totally boring), but I enjoyed recess as well.
My earliest recess memories involve a group of us kids playing on the “monkey bars,” and at a certain point the boys would become “quicksand monsters.” They would then chase the girls, and we girls would make a beeline for the swings. It seems that if we could get off the ground quickly enough, we would escape the evil quicksand monsters.
Another favorite activity was one of the school merry-go-rounds, those metal contraptions that you could hang onto and get wonderfully dizzy as someone else pushed the thing around. Common cries were “all the boys get off and push!” (from the girls), and “all the girls get off and push!” (from the boys). I don’t see merry-go-rounds on school playgrounds anymore, and that is a shame.
More recess hours were spent sitting in huge expanses of clover, either making clover necklaces and tiaras or searching for an elusive 4-leaf clover. When a 4-leaf clover was discovered, its owner would carefully carry it inside once recess ended. I remember once finding one and standing proudly in line with it. Another girl asked, “Can I see you clover?” When I obliged, she said, “4 leaf clover … 3 leaf clover … 2 leaf clover … 1 leaf clover … no leaf clover!” as she plucked off the leaves, one by one. I was horrified that anyone could do something so awful!
We seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time lined up, waiting for all the kids to be quiet. I remember arranging my feet in various positions that looked ballet-like to me. Once, a teacher noticed and asked if I took ballet. I was thrilled at the prospect, but had to say no.
In junior high, recess as such was over, but we did get to walk outside between the main building and the gym during our lunchtime. It was a time for deep discussions between preteen girls. I remember admiring my friend Leslie’s scarf, which she told me she had knit. We went to the bathroom and she asked me to hold her scarf, which I did … and saw a “made in China” tag leering at me.
She came out and I asked her if she had traveled to China to knit the scarf, showing her the offending tag. She was indignant and said her sister must have sewn it on …