Last night I stood in my yard and watched the girls play freeze tag as the evening turned to dusk. Porch lamps began to click on as their screeches of joy rang out down the street. They didn’t mind that it was getting dark. Secretly, neither did I. Samantha was inside cooking dinner, we were running a little behind schedule (it was already past 8pm) and I had a ticking countdown to this week’s episode of The Last Dance awaiting me at 9pm. Still, it was just too much fun to pass up. So I joined in the game myself and ended up chasing them (and subsequently being chased) through several neighbor’s yards. Finally, winded and out of breath I called time. I carefully watched as the little girl who had joined us for the friendly game of tag walked two doors down to her house. Ms. Smith, our neighbor next door who had been outside working in her yard, yelled across, she’s made it! We said our goodnights, and then I went inside.
Funny thing about freeze tag: you have to remain frozen if the person who is “it” tags you. Yet you can be unfrozen by someone else. Meanwhile, if you are so unfortunate to be frozen you basically have to wait until someone comes to save you. It can be excruciating for a kid to watch everyone else running around having fun while you wait…wondering, when will I get back in the game? Why was I so slow that I got tagged in the first place? This isn’t fair! On the other hand, being the person who is “it” isn’t a picnic either. Everyone’s running away from you. You’re responsible for basically crushing the dreams of freedom of movement for all your friends. You’re a social pariah, and nobody wants to be “it”. Sort of has parallels to adult life. Nothing is fair if it happens to you, and even if it doesn’t, the rules still seem sort of made up right?
As I initially sat and watched, then eventually joined in the game myself, I couldn’t help but mourn their innocence last night. It was probably premature of course. Freeze tag for them will still be just a game for now. Yet, in the world around them there are consequences that await them as they get older that I can’t and shouldn’t shield them from. The girls know the basics right now about the pandemic that has shaken the world, our community, and our families. Even the neighborhood girl who we’ve been “quaran-teaming” with gets it. We’ve got to be careful out here these days. They’re aware, but not afraid. Yet. It’s enough to make you wish for a time of innocence that is unlikely to ever return. So, instead we push forward with resolve, and if you get a chance to go back to a time where freeze tag is just a fun game, you take it and run with it.