Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Missing marbles

It was sadness that welled up rather than disappointment or anger. Having spent the day before at the march, it was obvious that he had locked himself out of life whereas others had chosen differently. So many marchers were his age and either being pushed in a wheel chair or hobbling along on a stick and looking for a ledge every 20 metres. Ida cackled: "Tell him to swalla his bloody pride, and git himself down 'ere". He was simply convinced it was beyond him. So, early on the Sunday morning, I packed our folding chairs, made a steaming thermos of coffee, ensured the boules were in the boot, and added the secret ingredient: his case.

We sat with the sun beating against the small of our back in a secluded nook of Centennial Park, a Tai Chi class to our rear and the kerfuffle of swans and water hens to our left. I plonked the tattered case on his lap; he started to ruffle through. He upended the phial, and although tumbling out of the plastic medicine bottle the small objects were drowned in badges from lawn bowling clubs around the state, his joy when he spied them was unbounded: "Pa's connies! I thought they were long gone."

My grandfather, William George, aka PaCan a family heirloom be this simple? If they were Pa's marbles, they loomed large in my own childhood. Marbles is a typical working class game - along with jacks, elastics and hopscotch: simple, inexpensive and within reach of most. Gathering beneath the peppercorn tree during "little lunch", a stick traced a wonky circle in the gravel as a heel gouged a pit in the centre and players took their possie around the circumference. Keepsies was the variation of choice - with the implicit understanding that connie aggies were exempt. They bestowed status: they were more than a mere acquisitive tool.

As he caressed them gently in the palm of his hand, his thumb instinctively herded a marble toward the slingshot formed with the index finger. The box of goodies weaved its magic: the connies had come home.

6 comments:

Joan Elizabeth said...

I never did play marbles. It was a boy's game. I stuck to hop-scotch and skipping. Love the shot of the marbles in the hand, tells the story.

Julie said...

I did 'em all. There was also one that I am trying to research.

It involved 7 sticks lined up with enough space to get a shoed foot between sideways. You jump on one foot from one end to the other, cannot put the other foot down but can use a hand if you topple. When you get to the other end you can remove one of the sticks and put it at the furthest end of the pattern. Meaning that eventually the sticks get further apart and the game more difficult.

Ever heard of it?

Martina said...

The marble's photo is great - as is the story. Touching.

altadenahiker said...

I don't know about your game of "elastics," but ours involved some elastic tape. Chinese jump rope, I think we called it. Required three girls, two on either end, standing up about five feet away from each other, with legs about two feet apart, with tape on outside of ankles, forming a rectangle. And then there was this dance the third girl would do, hop in and out, snag one side of tape, dance steps, make a pattern until you seemed all tangled but weren't, hop in the air, and off to the side. I could do it today; I could do it in my sleep. When you didn't have two friends handy, you could create the rectangle effect with chairs.

Ann said...

You make me cry.

My elastics was something similar to altadenahiker. I was trying to explain a scissor kick to someone at tai chi the other day by saying, remember playing elastics in the playground at school, and she looked at me blankly - oh, how I felt my age.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Nice Wrods !! I Also Played A Lot Of Marbles In My Child Hood ...