Lightning Bugs and Evening Play

LIGHTNING BUGS ARE FASCINATING little insects that have become rather scarce in backyards of today. In the summer years ago, as soon as darkness began to fall, the meadows and yards would be lit with a myriad little lights that dipped and fluttered like tiny searchlights over the landscape. Sometimes the effect in the twilight was a bit eerie, but it was fascinating to watch them perform. Children took a great delight in catching them and holding them in their hands as the bugs turned their lights on and off.
 
We often timed our evening play to coincide with the time that lightning bugs appeared because chasing them was such fun. We would chase them until we had caught quite a few, put them in a jar, and walk around in the twilight with our twinkling stars in glass containers until Mother called us in.
 
We always hated for this to happen because we were often engaged in playing some old traditional game such as Kitty Wants a Corner or Ain't no Booger Man Out Tonight. The term booger man was often used by many adults to stop children from engaging in mischief. Adults would often scream, "If you don't behave yourself, the booger man is going to get you," and many a child stood in great fear of this threat coming true. Children carried this idea over into their play and made the booger man a character to run from when playing a game.
 
Sometimes, one would volunteer to act as the booger man and hide behind a bush or a tree. The others would move around in the darknes chanting, "Ain't no booger man out tonight," when suddenly the booger man would appear with a wild whoop making as ugly a face as possible and performing wild and frightening steps. Uncanny shrieks and yells were sounded on all sides as everbody made a frantic rush to get away from the booger man.
 
We never had any dearth of games to play. It seems that we had a constant reservoir of them. There were no special games teachers in school nor were there any playgrounds at which we might learn them, but we played old games and said funny rhymes which had been handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.
 
People sometimes moved to Brooklyn from other communities, and the children in the family brought their games with them. If we didn't know theirs, we soon learned them and taught them ours.
 
Parents were a good source for games also. In our home, Mother taught us many games that she remembered from her childhood. One of my favorite ones of those that she taught us was Aunt Dina. It went like this:

Leader: Aunt Dinah's dead.
Group: How'd she die?
Leader: She died just so, just so, just so.
She died just so, just so, just so.

We followed the lead of the leader and made funny motions on the first verse, then added other verses and made other motions as we went along. Sometimes Mother would act as the leader, and we really enjoyed this becasuse we loved for Mother to play games with us.
 
Sally Walker was another familiar game that all children seemed to know: This is the way we sang it:

"Little Sally Walker
Sitting in a saucer,
Crying and a-weeping
For someone to come.
O rise, Sally, rise,
And wipe your weeping eyes.
Then fly to the East
And fly to the West,
And fly to one that you love the best."

 
We played the game vigorously, always giving special attention to the lines that said, "Fly to the East, Fly to the West, Fly to the one that you love the best." The last words had special allure, and each one of us wanted to be chosen as the favored one because it also meant that you became Sally. There was a second refrain to this game that we loved. It went:

"Put your hand on your hip
Let your backbone slip,
Shake it to the East,
Shake it to the West,
Shake it to the one that you love the best."

 
When we sang the line, "let your backbone skip, we really tried to do it literally. We screamed and laughed until grown-ups often stopped to watch us as we passed through the frenzied gyrations of letting our backbones slip and shaking ourselves from side to side.
 
We had other favorite ring games that we played from time to time. A good lively one was Lil Liza Jane. We would get into a big cirle and then clap our hands loudly as a sort of accompaniment while we sang:

"Steal a partner,
Lil Liza Jane,
Steal a partner,
Lil Liza Jane,
That old man ain't got no wife,
Lil Liza Jane
I wouldn't have him to save his life,
Lil Liza Jane."

 
Grandma Hippety Hop was a line game that afforded us lots of fun also. Two spirited leaders were always selected, usually on the basis of who could holler, "I'm it," the loudest. Then one leader became Grandma, and one became the mother. The mother would line her chickens up behind her, and Grandma would come a-knocking to find herself a chicken. Children often varied the regular dialogue to include all kinds of funny sayings, but the words below made up the frequently used dialogue.

Grandma: I'm going away
Mother: Go on.
Grandma: I'm coming back.
Mother: Yes, ma'm.
Grandma: Boom, Boom, Boom!
Mother: Who's that?
Grandma: Grandma Hippety Hop.
Mother: What you want?
Grandma: I want to light my pipe.
Mother: Don't have any fire.
Grandma: I see smoke coming out the chimney.
Mother: Children cooking dinner.
Grandma: Well, I want a chicken.
Mother: You shan't have a chicken.
Grandma: I shall have a chicken.
Mother: You shan't have a chicken.

 
After this banter, Grandma tried to catch a chicken from the line of children behind the mother. Everyone who got caught had to go over to Grandma's side. These old games were loads of fun, and we would continue to play until we heard the call to come in given in a decisive tone of voice. Playtime was over until another day.

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