Nature's earthy aroma and tricky weather hint at spring and I hear doctors suggest children do at least one hour of physical activity daily, despite the season.

I remember when kids played outdoors year round. They invented their own fun. Like a democracy, there were rules for youngsters to obey and traditions to respect.

Time was ignored. Buried in a closet is an ancient, embossed leather book called an "Autograph Album"; on its yellowed pages are priceless sayings, poems and signatures. I only asked special friends to sign my book. Today many names are marked "Deceased."

Some sample autographs: "When you get married and live upstairs, Don't come down and borrow my chairs," and "In your wall of friendship, consider me a brick."

Our favorite games were Monopoly and Checkers, which stayed set up for days in endless competition. "Jacks" were played on a sidewalk or porch with a bag of metal jacks and a 2-inch rubber ball. It took great skill to grab jacks while the bounced ball was airborne. I never made it past "three-sies."

It was a girl thing I never saw a boy play Jacks. Boys had their exclusive hobbies too, as they aimed and tossed pocket knives into the dirt and kneeled to play marbles.

For a flock of kids of all ages there were games such as Kick the Can, Duck Duck Goose, Red Light-Green Light, Red Rover, and Hide and Seek, which were all played outside, after supper.

When the street lights came on that meant it was time to go home. If any players were still hiding, we gathered and shouted, "All-ee, All-ee, In-Free."

For most games, whomever was "It" was chosen while we all stood with fists extended. The oldest counted fists with one finger "one potato, two potato, three potato four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more."

The "More" person became "It."

Jump rope and bouncing a ball featured rhyming rhythms like "One, two, three a-Larry, I spy M is McGarry, Sitting on a huckleberry, reading Webster's Dictionary." Or "Easy Ivey Over, my dog's name is Rover."

Bouncing ball resembles dribbling a basketball. One's leg lifted over at the end of each verse.

At the end of a jump rope was a willing grandmother or neighbor. Jumpers enter and exit the turning rope. The most wicked routine was "Double Dutch" where the two turners whipped two ropes around in opposite directions. Rope turners wore out fast. Jumpers sweated in fear.

Because of my many birthdays, my agility for childhood games is gone, but at least my arm isn't sore from turning a jump rope. While cleaning house, I keep up speed by chanting jump rope rhymes.

I've decided life would be perfect if, at twilight, I could hear once again, "All-ee, All-ee, In Free."

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