Write or photograph; explore the meaning of “uncharted territory.”
The afternoon was bright and sunny with a crisp breeze scurrying across the playground. Well-worn swings swayed and squeeked back and forth as if possessed by the ghosts of children who have all too quickly grown up to become adults.
Recess was at the top of the agenda for Ms. Neal’s class of fourth graders. Patiently, with only a slight bit of antsiness the boys and girls squirmed, waiting for the bell to ring and then out to the monkey bars, teeter totters and sand pit they’d run. But could they just hold on for a few more minutes? The aniticipation of 30 minutes freedom was agonizing.
Then it happened. The bell rang. All the energy of a team of horses couldn’t keep them back and off they shot out the door. Ms. Neal had learned many classes ago that there are some days you should just save your breath. Reprimanding a herd of wild 9 year olds for running wasn’t going to be heard or obeyed. She pushed a wayward lock of hair behind her ear.
Tom, Anu, Mark, Lamar, Jaob and Jennie were in combat against Sienna, Zack, Lakeisha, Hanna and Phil to try and take back the magic hat, a mutli-colored hand knit cap that had been donated by Jennie. She hated the thing but her mom made her her wear it since grandmother had made it especially for her. It’s okay, she thought, maybe they will somehow lose it.
This was a new game they had just invented right then and there. Two teams of five and one hat. The goal was that the opposing team had to find where the hat was hidden and take it to the “Magic Hat Mountain”, i.e. the bench by the fence, where your team would be victorious and declared the Rulers of Magic Hat Mountain. Then the teams would switch sides.
Now the rules got more complicated as it went along. First of all, if you were trying the get the hat and someone from the other team tagged you, you had to freeze in place, right where you stood. You could only move if another team mate of yours ran back and tagged you again. This made for lots of running and dodging and saving your fellow team members terribly exciting and dangerous.
Oh and absolutely, NO PUSHING ANYONE DOWN! That was made very clear and anyone who did would be bannished from the game and a new recruit would be brought in to play in your place. Unless it was by accident and then all was forgiven.
This was a marvelous game. Tagging, untagging, yelling, squeeling, looking for a hat where ever there was a nook. Jennie, a little disappointed, never lost her hat though. By the end of recess, both teams were red cheeked and puffing. Good, thought Ms Neal with smile only she knew the meaning of goooooood.
Shuffling back to the classroom they all vowed to play again the next day and the next. And at lunchy they even talked about getting a third team going. Yeah, that would be great!
The next day, same thing. Teams were picked and strategies planned. It ws fun, a lot of fun, but not quite the same thing. This time it was harder to hide the hat. They had used most of the obvious places to hide the hat, which by now was slightly brownish and starting to smell due to it being hidden in a tree stump.
You knew your oponent, how fast they ran, spun, dodged, swerved, faked left then right.
Running amuck, here and there looking for the hat, saving your team mate, yes it was a good time. But was it a great time, like yesterday? Anu and Jacob wandered off to the sand pit, saying “Maybe its in here.” They only slightly showed interest in continuing the game.
By the third day, everyone looked at each other. “Don’t you want to play Magic Hat guys?” cried Zack, about to grab the dirty hat off of Jennie’s head.
As the remaining team disbursed for the playground balls and hopscotch court, they said nothing. No one replied but Hannah. “Come on Zack. We’ve conquered that mountain, we’re onto the next.”
And that’s the way it should be.