“Underdog!” and Other Fun Games

Acorn Park

The Park (Photo: Thomas Price via foursquare.com)

Seeing the clear blue sky outside my window today, I think I’ll take Anna to the park after school. It’s great having a public park across the street. We’ve lived here for four years now, and it’s still one of my favorite things about this neighborhood.

I wrote about our early park trips—back when Anna was just three—and some of the other ways we kept busy that first summer after we moved, in Chapter 38 of A Smile for Anna.

Anna loved the playground—the slides, the swings, the seesaw, and the merry-go-round—but most of all she loved having kids to play with. She’d been a bit sheltered up until then. That wasn’t our plan; it just worked out that way. I took her to the mall play area, and she always found a friend to play with, but the kids were always different, and they lived all over town.

Now we had a neighborhood park with neighborhood kids. Most of them were her age, but she soon latched on to one older girl who became a surrogate big sister.

“Jasmine is here! Jasmine is here!” Anna would call out whenever she saw her. I think that her name was a big part of the attraction. Jasmine is the princess from Aladdin, and Anna’s princess obsession had blossomed since her third birthday party.

Jasmine was eight with long black hair like her Disney namesake. She had a baby sister of her own, but little Delilah was too young for Jasmine to play with. Anna was at the perfect age, and they were perfect for each other.

They swung on the swings together a lot. I would push Anna while Jasmine swung next to us.

“Hey Anna, you know underdog?”

“No.”

“I do.” I said.

“Is it okay?” Jasmine asked me.

“Go for it.”

Jasmine hopped off the swing, and I stepped aside so she could push Anna.

“Okay, Anna, you ready?”

“Ya.”

Jasmine gave Anna a couple of good pushes then caught her as she swung back. Grabbing the swing, she ran forward ducking her head under Anna.

“Underdog!”

Anna laughed. “Ahden, ahden, ahden!”

We lost track of Jasmine and her family after that first summer. I think they moved away sometime around Christmas. It was a shame, but I doubt their friendship would have lasted.

We were at the park a lot that summer. On rainy days, which grew fewer once summer arrived, we played inside. We played with her train set a lot—that was our Anna and Daddy toy— and we played board games like Candy Land and Hi Ho Cherry-O. But her favorite house game was Hide and Seek.

“OK, Anna, I’ll count and you hide.”

I covered my eyes and heard her thump past me into the living room and dive into her princess tent.

“Ready or not, here I come!” I made a big production of walking all around the house. Back to her bedroom . . .

“She’s not in here!

Then across the hall to ours . . .

“She’s not in here either.”

Wherever she hid, that was the last room I’d check. Finally I walked into the living room.

“I wonder where Anna is?”

She popped her head out of the tent. “Heh I am!”

“Anna, don’t tell me!”

“Buh you ast!”

So I quickly learned not to say, “I wonder where Anna is?” Even then I had no trouble finding her. Three-year-olds don’t get that sound travels.

“My toyne ta dount. One . . . Du . . . Fwi . . .” She always counted in her Princess tent, which sat in the middle of our living room.

Meanwhile, I walked through the dining room and turned the corner into the kitchen. I sat down behind the counter and waited while she counted to twenty.

” . . . nydee . . . dedy . . .Wedy o’ na, heh I dum!”
I heard her walk down the hall into our bedroom.

“No. Na heh.”

I saw her walk across to her room.

“No. Nah heh eevah.”

She walked back into the hall and through the kitchen, right past me.

I coughed quietly on purpose, and she turned.

“Fowd you!”

“Good job, Anna.” She found me every time.

Now it’s your turn to tell me. What are some of the games you love to play with you kids at the park? At home? What game did they love when they were younger, but later outgrew? What games do they still want to play?

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