Playground, you know?

The parking lot cum playground wasn’t the only place we’d play. On the off days, (we’d switch with other grades) we’d play in Spreckel’s park, the public park across the street.

Sometimes, we’d play with Uncle Larry and Aunt Mimi. Uncle Larry would pitch wiffle balls to us, and we’d swing wild with the oversized plastic bat wrapped with medical tape.

Uncle Larry was missing his right index finger. I never asked why, but we’d always laugh whenever he would point at something, because he’d have to use his middle finger. That was enough for us.

Not so funny now, but funny then.

Aunt Mimi would be the umpire, watching over us with her thick bottle lenses and blue grey hair, enforcing the rules of wiffle ball with her shrill voice. Sometimes, even when she wasn’t looking at us, she’d catch us doing things that we weren’t supposed to do. She’d catch us before we’d even made up our minds to be naughty. I’d pick up a palm nut to hit James Rorrick in the head, and before I could even cock my arm back, she’d be there. She’d seen everything, knew every trick in the book. She had watched over many generations of children in her lifetime, and god help her if she was going to let someone misbehave on her watch.

Of course, she never caught it when Matthew Dickory hit me in the head with a palm nut. It was there, on the battlefields of Spreckel’s park where we had our nonsensical wars, in between the contested territories between the public bathrooms and the stage that the city used once a year for the annual flower show. We never kept score. Just fighting for the fun of it. Of course, fighting in this case meant getting pegged in the butt by a palm nut at grade school velocities.

I’m surprised that no one ever lost an eye, like Aunt Mimi said. Then again, the eye’s a pretty small target, and the palm nut is a pretty small projectile.