Sitting here, thinking about something, anything to write that will help me post something good every week (or at least entertaining), I am blocked. I know there is a term for that (writer’s something) but the point is that my mind is BLAH; nothing there to help me write about Boricuas. So, I decided to sit down and watch a little TV. That may not help me at all, but I like it. I hear my son Daniel saying he is bored because he has nothing to play with. “You have nothing to play with? You have a trunk full of toys, you have the PS2, and we have a huge yard here that you can go out and play”. “Yo sé, papi. Pero no quiero hacer eso (I know daddy, but I don’t want to do any of that)!” After giving him the normal parent speech of “Cuando yo era chiquito” (When I was a kid), I found exactly something to write about: my childhood games.
I lived most of my life in a suburb in Cidra, with my parents, brother and sister, and there were a lot of kids around my age. Even though my brother is only one and a half year older than me (yes, you look younger) he did not enjoy playing the same games I did, I was too annoying. I remember all too well the fights we had over anything. “Me esta mirando”, “No me toques”, “Mami, Franco viró el agua y no quiere limpiarlo”, and so on, made my mother really happy and full of joy (get the sarcasm?) During the summer and Christmas vacation, also on the sunny weekends, my mother decided to kick us out to play so she can do her chores, work or not listen to all that fighting all day long. “Mira, váyanse pa la calle a jugar que tengo cosas que hacer y no me dejan (Look, go out and play that I have stuff to do and you won’t let me do them)” It’s like I can still hear her.
We had a wide variety of games to play, also depending of the time of the year. Since we lived next to the basketball court and a big open field, we could do lots of things: riding bikes, playing basketball, skating, among others. But those were the normal ones, games that are played almost anywhere in the world. As Boricuas, and poor ones, we had to pay with what we had. I know my parents have stories where playing baseball with a broom stick would be considered technology, but that for us was fun. We played casquito or clorito (that’s how we called it in my neighborhood). We cut the top side of a small Clorox bottle, we found or begged our mothers for a broom stick and we played. The batter would hit the clorito and if it was not grabbed by the fielding team, a score was made. Simple, easy and fun! We did the same game with bottle caps.
Another game we loved to play, and considered Boricua, was gallito. We took the fruit from the locust tree; we opened it and took the seeds out. The seeds were cleaned with our bare hands (we did not have time to get water and soap, we just wanted to play), we made a whole in the middle, tied a sting to the seed and started playing. The game was easy: there was a circle made in the field, one of us puts the gallito in the middle and the other one tried to break it by hitting it. The first one to brake the opponent’s gallito won. The process to make that happen had a downside: to take the seed out and clean it meant we had stinky hands for quite some time. We called it mierda e’ gato, cause it was really stinky. And we also played in the dirt, kneeling to hit the gallito. So, imagine all the fun my mom had when we got home dirty from head to toes and stinking. “Bendito sea el señor, Franco! Pa jugar no tienes que arrastrarte por el piso! (Same thing I tell my son now. My mom taught me!)
Usually on rainy days we used to play 1-2-3 Pescao! The game was simple, but when played with a lot of kids it was even better. One kid, the fisher, would be facing a wall or a post which was also the finish line. The rest of the kids were behind the fisher in a line or two. The fisher would scream 1-2-3 Pescao! and that’s the time the other kids had to rush to the finish line. When the phrase was finished, the fisher turned around and everyone had to freeze. If any of the kids move the fisher sent him back to the starting line. Pretty easy right? But there were some things that could be done to make the other kid move: jokes, funny faces or just say “you moved”. That would make some kids fight about it, and, of course, move. The first one to touch the fisher will be the new fisher and the game starts over.
Some of the other games we played were trompo, guillotina, and canicas. We all played in the same place. We usually called it a day when one of the kids started screaming “Por ahí viene al aguacero! (Here comes the rain!) We all started running to our houses and many made it before the rain could get us. And there was mom, with the galletas and juice waiting for us. That’s what I called a good day!
After telling this story to my kid, and answering all the questions he had, we decided to play some ball in our yard. And we both called it a great day! Until next time, cójanlo suave!
PS. Here’s a song from Rubén Blades that describes the process from childhood to crazy adulthood. Como nosotros. Click the blue link to listen.