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Darrell Huckaby - How did hop scotch get left off the syllabus?

I was wandering through the British section of a large American amusement park the other day when I ran across a hop scotch pattern which had been permanently painted on the ground. Naturally, I hopped through it. What else could I do? I ask you - who could pass up a hop scotch pattern?

It was your typical configuration. Right foot hop. Right foot hop. Right foot hop. Double. Right foot. Right foot. Double. Right foot. Safety circles on the end.

I went right through it without a problem.

But then one of the ladies in our group challenged me because I had put both feet down in the safety circle instead of doing a 180 at the end - which I could have done, easily - if the safety circle had not been there.

And then a rather spirited discussion broke out among the adults in our group about the rules for playing hop scotch in general. Most folks remembered a little about the game but were a bit foggy on the details. The whole thing was clear as a bell for me. When you play Porterdale rules, you lag with a broken piece of glass. There were folks in our group who insisted that it was a flat stone that was tossed onto the hop scotch, but in Porterdale it was a lot easier to come across a broken piece of glass than a flat stone.

Some of us didn't even realize that you had to toss the glass/stone into the boxes in order - the first box first and the second box second and so forth and there was a tremendous amount of disagreement over what the penalty was for missing the mark on your lag (I said that your turn was over if that happened; others insisted that you get at least three chances per turn) and over what happened if your left foot touched the ground when it wasn't supposed to.

One lady, who insisted that she had grown up playing the game in DeKalb County, didn't even remember that on your way back to the beginning square you had balance on one foot and pick up your glass/stone before continuing.

Nobody in the group - other than yours truly, of course - could remember exactly how the game ended; what one had to actually do to win, in other words.

Proving the age-old adage, your fun is where you find it. There we were - six adults of varying ages, shapes and sizes - standing in the middle of the Florida heat, surrounded by a plethora of activities, discussing the fine points of playing hop scotch - a game for which you only need ... Well, we couldn't even agree upon what you need to play it.

One person thought you had to have a sidewalk and a piece of chalk to go along with your flat stone. I knew that you could scratch out a perfectly functional hop scotch on a dirt surface with a sharp stick - and that you could play, as previously stated, with a shard of glass.

Meanwhile, our collective kids - of whom there were six - thought that their parents had lost their collective minds. And then it dawned on me. None of our children, who ranged in ages from 15 to 22, had the foggiest notion about how to play hop scotch - and that made me sad.

I tried to do a good job raising my children. I tried to teach them about their cultural heritage. They all know how good boiled peanuts are, for instance, and I am certain that they have all caught lightning bugs and tried to keep them alive all night in a mayonnaise jar with holes poked in the lid with an ice pick, and I am absolutely certain that they know to look up at the sky and make a wish on the first star of evening. But I apparently have neglected to teach them to play hop scotch.

The whole experience made me wonder what else they didn't know about. Were they aware of the finer points, for instance, of playing Red Rover? Did they know, for example, that you always called the weakest person over to your side first because you knew they couldn't break through your line? And did they know that sometimes playing Red Rover was just a convenient excuse for getting to hold hands with someone you were sweet on - or that a lot of 7-year-old boys had refused to play the game at all for fear of having to hold hands with someone who had cooties?

And what of freeze tag and tag out of jail and drop the handkerchief - or any of the dozens of games we used to play for hours on end during the endless summers of our youths.

Oh, my. It looks like I have some catching up to do on my children's educations. Or maybe the opportunity has passed. I know this, though. If they ever made an electronic video game of hop scotch, my kids would be grand masters before the week is out.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.