A childhood game ends with smashing results

    Pediatric nurse-practitioner Kathy Houng recounts a childhood game that had a smashing ending. (Image courtesy of First Person Arts)

    Pediatric nurse-practitioner Kathy Houng recounts a childhood game that had a smashing ending. (Image courtesy of First Person Arts)

    As summer approaches, it reminds us of how kids fill those long days with games that draw on their creativity, sense of invincibility … and lack of judgment. 

    Philadelphia resident Kathy Houng recalled one such story at a First Person Arts StorySlam with the theme “Shock.”

    “Growing up, my brothers and I didn’t have cable, so we were really good at making up games,” she recalls. “We played things like ‘classical music speed race,’ where we’d just sprint between two chairs until the song ended. But our favorite game to play was something called ‘cannonball.’ “

    It was like diving into a pool, sort of. The three siblings would substitute a 7-foot-tall dresser for the diving board, and a pile of pillows and blankets on the floor for the water below.

    This time, it worked fine for her little brothers, aged 2 and 5, but 9-year-old Kathy soon found she was a bit too old, or maybe too big, for the game. The results were truly smashing. Listen to the story above.

    It sounds like you got along really well with your brothers. What were some other kid games you played besides “classical music speed race,” “shin guard pillow fight” and “cannonball”?

    What didn’t we play? We really enjoyed re-enacting epic war battles (much to my mom’s chagrin) and loved to build forts with the couch cushions. We also spent every waking moment of summer daylight at the park, beach, or in our backyard. A favorite outdoor activity was — Bike Joust: Ride bikes opposite each other while holding wiffle bats and attempt to spear the other’s tire spokes with the bat. Dangerous, I know …

    As the oldest kid, did you direct the games? Was it one of your less-timid brothers? Or did it depend on the game?

    I directed all of the “make believe” games and would give each brother a role. Usually I was the mom, my middle brother was the war hero son, and my youngest brother was the sickly child who would end up orphaned. The outdoor sports were my brothers’ territory.

    Did you and your siblings instigate bad behavior, get each other in trouble, then say: “I didn’t do it!” Or were you more apt to take your medicine when one of you did something bad?

    Definitely the former. I felt really bad for my middle brother (the most mischievous out of the three of us), who would regularly get blamed for the other siblings’ mishaps and bad behavior.

    How old were you when you got cable, and did it change your game-playing habits?

    We got cable when I was … 18! The summer before I left for college. By that time, I had already grown accustomed to the fuzzy TV screen, getting shocked by the wrench when turning the broken dial nob, adjusting the antenna, and crowding on my parents’ bed to watch Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and (sneakily) Beverly Hills 90210.

    The lack of cable meant that we spent more time with each other and found hilarious ways to entertain ourselves. Delaying getting cable was one of the best decisions my parents ever made.

    How badly was the chandelier damaged? It seems like it still functioned; you said your dad didn’t really repair it. Why do you think he didn’t he replace the fixture with something that was not broken?

    What’s interesting is that all the glass shattered, but the wiring was still intact! It worked just fine after we put new bulbs in but no one sold the ugly glass panels that met my mom’s standards, so we never bought new ones. After the incident, the dining room was converted into a home office/homework hub and rarely “shown off” to guests, so my parents didn’t see the need to spend money on a new chandelier.

    How do you and your brothers get along now? Still playing games?

    My brothers and I are extremely close. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of some childhood antic and relay that memory to them immediately. We’re all in different parts of the east coast and see each other every few months. Even when we’re in our 80s, I have a feeling that we’ll still be jumping out of closets or instigating food fights. The games will never end. 🙂

    Kathy’s story was featured in the April 21 edition of the First Person Arts podcast.

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