Friday, April 02, 2010
Hot Bread and Butter
In Philadelphia, they call this game Hot Bread and Butter.
Children's games are social fantasies. They are shared dreams in which certain themes are being toyed with - investigated and manipulated for the sake of some future reintegration into a world view. They are reconstructions of relationships - simulations - which are guided by individual players, instituted by the groups in which they are played or abstracted by the traditions of generations of children.
In "Hot Bread and Butter" you gain power through risk and luck - not through direct confrontation - but only once the power has already been abdicated. As a child grows towards adulthood, he is approaching the time in which adult power is left to him - if he can take it. It is the opportunity that he must seize, not the person that he must confront. The power of the adult cannot be taken from an adult, it must be discovered within the person of the child.
Most children who play "Hot Bread and Butter" are between the ages of nine and fourteen. When I tried to play it with younger children, the equilibrium was lost. Many children didn't leave the base. Those who found the belt either hit too hard or spent the round trying to keep the belt for themselves. I had to teach the game I had to control. I had a lousy time, and so did most of the children. "Hide and Seek" however, which is related in structure to "Hot Bread and Butter." was a total success.
In other words, when children chose to play a particular game - when they establish a contract for what they are going to play with - they do so because the game is related to other experiences, because it provides them with a platform upon which they can create and explore a model which helps them define their relationship to other experiences, experiences which they are beginning to perceive as themes in their daily lives. They call this pursuit "Fun."
The cartoon that illustrates this little story is by Donald Jefferes. It's one of several he made for the Streetplay website, in an online slideshow called Extreme Streetplay. Take a look. It might remind you what some kinds of fun are for.
Bernie DeKoven, funsmith