What We Usually Play

When I was a little kid, the little girl who lived around the corner and I used to do this thing called “Sing and Swing.” Given who we are talking about, moi, it probably seems equally improbable that “Sing and Swing” would be either dirty or innocent. As it happens, it was the latter, and Deena and I spent many jovial afternoons on the swing set in my back yard, singing the songs we learned in school and the Elvis songs she was obsessed with. The higher we swung, the louder we sung, and I imagine our high-pitched croons rattling the windows of the surrounding houses. Besides the two regular swings, the swing set also featured a sort of swaying gondola for toddlers, which we appropriated for use as Glinda’s Magic Bubble when we played “Wizard of Oz.” We also played “What We Usually Play,” which was an interactive jumble of imaginary characters from all of the TV shows and movies we had seen, including “The Lone Ranger,” which we watched religiously every afternoon in syndication. I don’t know how old we were; pretty young, although we had no supervision and could wander the neighborhood at will as long as we were home for dinner. This leniency did not include going into each other’s houses, which required special permission since our mothers were sworn enemies, so we watched “The Lone Ranger” separately and rendezvoused later to compare notes. Often, in the midst of “What We Usually Play,” the Lone Ranger and Tonto would get confused and end up on hovering in Glinda’s Magic Bubble, singing the soulful tunes of Elvis Presley. The Lone Ranger was inconsolable when Elvis died. I remember her sending a kiss in every direction of the compass, as well as up to heaven and (just in case) down to hell, just to be sure it would reach him wherever he ended up; she made me shake hands in all of those directions along with her. In my mind, this somehow made sense, and I imagined that musical ghost collecting air kisses and air handshakes from mourners the world over.

We also collected caterpillars.

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