It was one of those Wednesday mornings.
I was staring sleepily at my work computer screen, my heart not in the grill part orders I was about to tackle, when I heard a string of familiar words fly from one of my younger co-worker's lips. I perked up immediately.
"Bubblegum, Bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?"
Oh, my gosh!
Apparently her three-year-old daughter had recently learned the old-fashioned counting rhyme, and she said listening to her recite it opened a floodgate of heart-happy childhood memories. I couldn't help but smile.
To think kids growing up in such a technological age would still be learning that!
Back in my day, of course, how else would a fun-loving neighborhood gang of kids fairly and randomly decide who was "it" for Hide And Go Seek, Ghost In The Graveyard or Sardines on a warm summer night? It was a pre-game "it"-choosing staple on Buckeye Crescent, the typical tree-lined suburban street in Madeira, OH, where I grew up in the 60s.
Do you remember reciting Bubblegum, Bubblegum? If you do, count your blessings. It means you couldn't have wished for a more fun and imaginative childhood.
I can still see each of us -- Vicki, Valli, Ronni, Mindy, me and a host of other kids from up and down the block -- excitedly sticking one Keds-covered foot into the circle, and the oldest kid -- probably Vicki (tee-hee) -- getting to do the counting honors. One word per foot.
When "wish" landed on your toe, you got to choose a number, any number, of imaginary pieces of bubblegum. Since bubblegum -- any gum or candy, really -- was a real treat, not a staple in our childhood diets back then, just being able to wish for say, 10 pieces, was almost as exciting as playing the game at hand.
Then Vicki would count each foot for each piece of bubblegum wished for, and end with "and...you...are...out." And out that person would go.
The perfect fair and sportsmanlike process of elimination. And no parental intervention to boot.
Oh, sure we also used One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four and the tried-and-true Ink A Bink, A Bottle of Ink. But truly, if my memory serves me correctly, Bubblegum, Bubblegum was by far the most popular.
Let's face it, a counting rhyme was the only fair way to choose who got to be the all-controlling "Mother" in "Mother, May I?" or the spinning traffic light in "Red Light, Green Light".
No matter how disappointed you might have been that the fickle, sticky finger of bubblegum fate didn't choose you to be Mother, there was no arguing, no whining. You just had to put on the big girl pants and say with a smile and hope in your voice, when it was finally your turn, "Mother, may I take three umbrella steps?"
Then you'd pray that "Mother" -- your best friend, now giddy with the unbridled power afforded those fortunate enough to win the step-granting role -- would kindly say, "Yes, you may." But more often than not she'd give you a sly grin and command, "No, but you may take one hot dog step...backwards."
Daunted and a tad pissed, you'd forget to ask one more time, "Mother, May I", and just as you were rolling into your backward hotdog, "Mother" would admonish gleefully, "You forgot to say 'Mother, May I!'" and to the back of the line you would go. Relucantly. But you went back, even more determined to work your way back up to the front till she was in reach and you could tag her butt and send her marching to the back of the line and you could, at last, be "Mother".
Ah, if only managing motherhood was as was simple as merely assigning hot dog steps to obedient children...
Pondering further, I can't help but think that Bubblegum, Bubblegum was probably the friendliest means of deciding who was "it" or "out".
One Potato, Two Potato included the rather harsh declaration, "And out you go with a dirty, dirty, dish towel on your toe." Was the dish towel slam really necessary? I mean, hey, not every kid's mom did the laundry like freaking June Cleaver.
And then there was that berating last line in Ink A Bink, A Bottle of Ink..."The Cork Fell Out And You Stink." Probably not the counting rhyme our parents wanted us to use. But again, another plus to being given the freedom of playing without constant parental oversight.
We weren't going out of our way to make someone else feel bad. It just made us giggle to think we could say the forbidden word "stink" and get away with it.