Dusk is a cool time to be outside.

When I was growing up, dusk was the time of evening when all the older neighborhood kids gathered in our big backyard to play kick the can.


As a younger child I would sit in my window when I was supposed to be in bed.

I would press my face into the window screen, trying to find the older kids who scattered like seeds on the wind while someone leaned face first into the big oak tree just down from my window, counting with his or her face buried in their hands.

Then, later, I was the one running in to kick the can. The designated area for the can was always near that big tree. Everyone hid and then the person named "It" would go looking for everyone else, calling them out as he or she found them hiding.

But, if the person who was "It" wandered too far from the base someone could run in and kick the can, giving everyone who had been caught a chance to run and hide again while "It" ran to get the can and put it back on base.

The last one caught became "It" for the next game.

I was a wiry tomboy who could shimmy up a tree faster than a monkey drinking Red Bull, so I was frequently found looking down on the game from my hiding place. With shadows looming and the sun setting low in the sky, runners became shadowy figures.

We played until our parents finally yelled that we were crazy and it was time to come in.

Then we groaned and mumbled, because it was a fun game, but as we trudged inside we knew we'd do it again the next evening.

I long to teach my grandkids this game and watch them relive the adventure.

As a child, my family had a big cookout annually that we called Chicken Fry. It earned that name because everyone brought one pot of fried chicken and one potluck dish. My parents made giant crocks of iced tea and baked beans. There was always deviled eggs and every kind of salad you can think of, plus cakes and pies and homemade ice cream at the end of the day.

Horseshoes and badminton games heated up the backyard at Chicken Fry while croquet offered a slow game to those gathering in the front yard. And every now and then a game of family softball would pull in adults and kids alike.

Nothing is as much fun as playing softball with all ages — little kids, big kids and adults alike. Especially with everyone cheering when the crack of a bat sends a ball soaring.

Then, the evening always ended with the playing of guitars, mandolins, fiddles, banjos and harmonicas, and even a juice harp, because we were a musical family.

When my own kids were growing up we had a Fourth of July cookout every single year. Volleyball was the big sport and everyone but grandparents got in on the game. The line judge stood on a ladder next to the net, looking over everything. His calls brought cheers and boos and more fun than I can put into words.


Those games went on annually until the year that the dad of one of my daughter's friends slipped and fell, pushing his knee out of joint. It took three men to load him into a van to get him to the hospital. A week and a half and one surgery later he was home and healing up, but we never put the volleyball net up again. I now think that was a mistake. We missed those rousing volleyball games.

I wonder if my grandkids will ever know about the game of kick the can?

Will they learn to play croquet or horse shoes or badminton?

Will they play volleyball or backyard softball — or will all these be games relegated to recreation council leagues and physical education classes in schools instead of the family fun I remember?

I think the games they play on their handheld devices, phones and tablets will become the excitement they remember when they are adults and their kids are embracing something new and different.

Change is hard.

But some things never change.

My granddaughters both like ponies and my grandson likes anything with wheels, and those are the same things the girls and the boys in my big family loved when we were growing up. I was in love with my grandma's border collie when I was little and now both my grandkids love my Shetland sheepdog, Ryley.

We all still enjoy family bonfires, picnics, and the kids still like fishing like I did when I was young.

I guess we all have to find our own summer games, but there are a few things that will never change.

Lois Szymanski is a Carroll County resident and can be reached at loisszymanski@hotmail.com.