Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eevie ivy over, a pocketful of clover

Spanish dancer do the splits,
Spanish dancer do the kicks,
Spanish dancer turn around,
Spanish dancer touch the ground,
Spanish dancer get out of town quick!

With the last day of grammar school, I packed up my jump ropes, never to jump rope again.

I don’t know why some things last and others don’t. Surely, I worked as hard on jump rope skills as I did on my tennis serve. I knew all the rhymes, could beat almost anyone at double-dutch and double jump and triple jump and relay jump. I could jump for hours, glassy-eyed and high as kite while singing little girl Gregorian chants.

In came the doctor,
In came the nurse,
In came the lady with the alligator purse
Out went the doctor
Out went the nurse
Out went the lady with the alligator purse

One could practice solo, with a personal little rope that had ounce-weights attached along the length to whip up a decent speed. But the big stage was on the school playground with two girls twirling two ropes, with me -- the star, the center of the universe -- jumping in the middle. After the rhyme, the ropes would speed up, and the audience would chant: one,two,three,four,fivesixseveneight,niteeletwe… We called this “jumping the count.”

Boys couldn’t jump rope, they just couldn’t. They lacked timing, coordination and grace. We girls would fall on the ground, positively shrieking with laughter and derision whenever they tried. The ropes trapped the boys like flies in spiderwebs, and the cool boys – the Terry Emerys for example -- chose to ignore the game entirely.

I L-O-V-E love him,
I'll K-I-S-S kiss him,
I'll H-U-G hug him
In the p-a-r-k park park park.

For whatever reason, I think jump rope fits in the box labeled “For little girls only,” a space it shares with Nancy Drew, slumber parties, blood sisters, Shetland pony rides, and feeling like the center of the universe. Sometimes, while foraging for something else, I run into this box and recall what it was I originally had hoped to find.


  1. I loved skipping at school and chanting the rhymes while the boys played British Bulldog (banned now, of course) in their separate playground. Here's some extreme skipping:

  2. Ah, Bellis: With that music and that duration, it has to be in the US.

  3. Jumping rope is an awesome cardio work out...for anybody who does that stuff!!!! Think boxers!!!!

  4. Nicely put together column.

    With an intriuging sting in the final sentence.

  5. When I was in the 4th or 5th grade, the PE teacher told us that we needed to learn to jump rope. I think this was part of one of the President's get-in-shape programs or something. They issued us those yellow nylon ropes and told us to go home and practice. I learned to jump rope by doing that little double jump, but I could never do the single jump thing, which had a name that I don't recall. Trying to do that, or trying to cross my arms, that was torture. Just another thing that I was never going to be good at. For a few weeks anyway, I dreamed.

    Yes, I recall watching the girls on the block doing their jumps with their chants, and doing tricks, and playing hopscotch. That was their world, and I was never going to be part of it.

  6. One of your best article postings, kB. However, I could jump rope. And, I'm male - and canine.

    I don't know why some things last & others don't, either. Even with people. Especially with those ones we most cared about. Often, we're just left with the feeling of practicing solo.

  7. I had forgotten all about jumping rope, maybe because I left it behind in elementary school. In middle school the girls in our neighborhood took up playing jacks using with a golf ball and hopscotch using short pieces of broken necklace chains. I also sometimes liked playing touch football with older boys but no boys needed to apply for jacks and hopscotch. It would have been unthinkable.

    Such an lovely, evocative piece for a cool fall afternoon, KB.

    wv singe

  8. My favorite part of teaching fifth and sixth grade was watching the girls jump rope during recess and lunch. "Cinderella dressed in yellow, went upstairs to kiss her fellow . . . " "Miss Sally had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell. . . "

    That second one was full of double entendre and, technically, I shouldn't have allowed it because it was a very strict parochial school, but I got a big kick out of it.

    So true about the centers of the universe.

  9. PS My mom was a master jumper and I always resented her when she came outside and upstaged me and all of my friends.

  10. You are totally right - boys wouldn't even help swing the rope unless MOM made them! We bought a jump rope last year - my husband does NOT even jump right. He'd be such a lousy girl

    Thanks for your comments on my story on my sweet brother. No, he isn't like that at all anymore. But the stories I could tell!

  11. I remember this so well. Like Susan said, "Cinderella, dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss her fella..."

    My little daughter is only 4 but trying hard to figure out jumping rope. I think she already knows it's something special.

  12. Earl and CO, you're rather wistful and lovely. Susan, your mom was something else -- I try to picture mine in heels and a cocktail dress hitting the ropes saying, "Strawberry shortcake, blueberry pie, I got the name of the cutest guy..."

  13. Oh gosh, blood sisters, slumber parties, center of the universe. Gone, long gone. What a lovely piece. I hope you're sending this stuff off somewhere to get paid for writing it.

    I wasn't an athletic kid. Jump rope really stymied me. It wasn't until junior high that I discovered I could run fast and I finally felt some physical prowess. "Center of the universe" I found elsewhere than athletics entirely.

    I wonder if boxers use rhymes to keep them going when they jump rope.

  14. I think hopscotch (sp?) goes in that box too.

    Really wonderful post Karin.

  15. I discovered quickly that I was useless at skipping rope any way other than solo ~ you've made me think about this, Hiker, and I wonder if it was at least partly to do with giving up control, and trusting in those with the ropes. {I think I just squirmed a bit inside...} A beautiful post.

  16. Oh I was pretty darn good myself. If we didn't have two throwers, we tied one end to a tree! That worked.

    And as the Grand Dame of this rowdy gaggle of bloggers may I offer you ladies a bit of advice. As you advance in age, DO NOT try to jump rope. Just take my word for it (or you can email me if you can't figure out the reason!)

    PS Remember: "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Karin with a baby carriage!! ":)

  17. I remember that one, V.

    Actually I did try jumping rope at the gym, but the ropes they had were all too long. That was my excuse.

  18. Yes Amy. And four-square.

    Virg -- throwers? I don't remember that but I'll use it.

    Shell, the throwers had to very skillful when using the double ropes. Timing was everything.

    I know what I'm giving P for Christmas.

  19. I love the way you clutch so close those memories of childhood--and make them relevant to today---

  20. I'm giving you a bottle of buck-fifty scotch.

  21. Jon and Laurie sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G...

    On top of Old Smokey
    All covered with snow
    I saw Davy Crockett
    Kiss Marilyn Monroe

    One time my nephew, then 8, told me a dirty joke about the neighbor parking his Chevrolet in "mom's garage." I'm sure I heard that joke when I was 8, and I got to thinking, how does that happen? Seems that these things are passed along among the age groups year after year and seamlessly, so that the jokes and the jump-rope and hopscotch rhymes literally remain among the 8-11 year olds and keep getting passed along in a direct line.

    As Jagger and Richards wrote: "Doing things I used to do; they think are new."

  22. You know something else boys don't do: skip. My BFF in college used to say, "Let's skip," and we would lock arms and skip around campus and giggle like grade school girls. Boys miss out on all the fun.

  23. I learned to skip. But all that was private. I think we'd try some of that girl stuff privately, to see if we could do it. That way, no one would see our failures.

    I know someone who's a road manager for a musician who calls her blog "You Tour Like a Girl."

  24. Well, I definitely skipped, and I am impressed that you remember the chants, but I couldn't double dutch and I was never that great. But I challenge you to a Hula Hoop contest!

  25. How about string tricks with your hands? I can still do Jacob's Ladder if I have a loop of yarn. Couldn't explain how or write down the steps but when I get a piece of yarn it's like a sense memory or something.

  26. I still do Jacob's ladder with my granddaughter...some things you just don't forget...I think it's cellular...

  27. I used to love jump rope and hopscotch played on squares drawn on the sidewalk with chalk. Just the other day I found a swing in a park and had to swing on it for a while. It was the most fun, giddy, joyful few minutes I've enjoyed in a long time.

  28. Cat's cradle and Sunset! something else I don't ever recall boys doing (tho Mike & Earl will probably prove me wrong).

  29. Carolynn, I remember all our sidewalks COVERED in colored chalk and hopscotch's. Whenever I see one today -- and it's not that often I see one -- I hop it.

  30. I tried many times to learn Cat's Cradle, but to no avail.

  31. Even here in Australia we had the Davey Crockett and Marilyn Monroe chant - late 50s I think it would have been.

  32. Julie: I'll bet you even had your own Alamo! It's amazing how some things are everywhere, and some things stay completely regional. I wonder who has replaced Davy and Marilyn for the current generation? And probably "kiss" has been replaced...

  33. Definitely hopscotch.

    The girls next door to me now play it all the time. In their game, if you land on certain squares you fall through to a magical land. I would have loved that!

  34. Petrea, if you're only problem was the jumping then you're still in good "shape" so to speak.

    Mr. E, I never heard the Marilyn Monroe chant. That's a good one but I ain't jumpin to it now!! I love that the boys tried it all in private. Your memories are just the best.

    And may I just add that "skipping" is a developmental thing that takes a while when you are 4 or 5. I just watched my Laura Kate's kindergarten class try to skip down the aisle of the church for their musical program. Oh, if that's not the cutest, funniest, dearest thing in the world to watch. EVERY single one "thought" they were skipping!

  35. My daughter and I have elaborate new forms of hopscotch that involve being jettisoned into outer space, becoming invisible, having to sing instead of talk, all based on which square you land on.

  36. I love the internet. I just found out hopscotch was likely invented by the Romans for military training exercises. I'd have liked to have heard the rhymes for THAT.

    and this is the creepiest hopscotch grid EVER.

  37. No! Isn't that strange how it morphed into the ultimate girl game? Laurie, I want a photo of you and little bit hitting the hopscotch.

    (As a child, I used a gold bracelet as my marker. It slid so well. I inherited it from my grandmother, and my mom never hinted that might be an inappropriate use of a legacy. Good for her.)

  38. I want that photo of L and L'il Bit too, s'il vous plait.
    Auntie Mumsie

  39. The Romans! Laurie, that's a brilliant piece of information, thank you. From the ultimate macho men to you and Little Bit.

  40. I am so amazed with your range. Another really touching reminiscence.

  41. Hadn't thought of those jumping rhymes in awhile.

  42. Shocking I gather was a surprise winner. Did I put money on him/her (shows how much I know)? Hardly bloody likely! S/he paid $9.80 for a win and $3.40 for a place. I NEVER win that big.

    But did I win big on the day? You betcha. I spent it with a great bunch of folk who enjoyed their heart out.

    Psst ... good research to find the name of the winner. The race is an incredible phenomenon here in Ozland where we will bet on cockroaches scuttling up a wall.