One of the outdoor games I remember most at family gatherings, after lawn darts which I doodlewashed last year, has to be croquet. For some reason, our family stumbled upon a croquet set, often associated with the upper class who would recoil at the thought of lawn darts, and a new tradition was born. For anyone unfamiliar with this game, it consists of a set of wires bent into a horseshoe shape called wickets, some mallets, and some balls. The goal was basically to have your side’s balls go through more wickets than your opponent’s side. And there ends my proper knowledge as we made up the rest. There’s a “right” way to set up the court, but it was more fun to create a winding obstacle course instead. When the wickets weren’t enough we’d add other things like aluminum cans and Tupperware into the mix. I realize now, I’ve never really played croquet, but instead, played a sort of homemade miniature golf sporting odd wooden hammers and some really big balls.
Sometimes, a cousin would insist on playing by the rules and I was always irritated. It didn’t seem as fun at all and actually sort of boring. It wasn’t until later that I realized, as I would throughout my life, that some people are completely lost when there are no rules and others, often those crazy creative types, are lost when there are rules. Trying to play by someone else’s rules has always been a problem for me. It’s not that I questioned authority, it’s just that my mind works by riddling through a series of possibilities. Rules automatically made something, whatever it was, impossible. And I’ve always wanted to explore new things and try things that haven’t been done before. Luckily, I had a lot of like-minded friends to play with who would happily make up and break rules as we went along, so those outdoor games were really fun.
Looking back, I realize that rules are the only way to declare a true winner, but I guess we just weren’t as interested in that. We were too busy having fun to worry about who was the best player and who was the worst. If anything, the reward simply came from the time spent enjoying a fun activity together. We all walked away as winners that way. I’ve not played outdoor games in years, because my friends all grew up, moved on, or learned to play by the rules. Sometimes, I think back and miss those wonderful times building those crazy courses and wonder what it would be like to try it again today. In my dream, I’d see people across the park who seemed to share that gleeful sense of reckless abandon and march right over to the wayward group, one eyebrow raised, and slyly ask, “Fancy a game of croquet?”