“Bases” is the name of the game, but it could just as well be “the last man standing.”
In this case, it wasn’t adults but grandchildren.
There are five of them and they were all together this Sunday as Jack and Jen and their two children, Lucy and Eddie, made their annual summer trek from Vietnam to join Scott, Diana and their daughter Natalie, who flew in from Jackson Hole, Wyo. Ted and Erica and their twin daughters had the least travel for the reunion. They live in North Kingstown.
The kids are all within three years of each other, which makes for a cohesive group to enjoy each other’s company.
“Bases” made for an even tighter group.
The game requires a lot of running for the kids; some bluff and bluster from the adults; a patch of lawn; and a tennis ball. The rules are simple. The adults toss the ball back and forth between the bases in no particular order. The kids can stay on one base no more than three throws. If tagged off a base, they get an out, but they get to stay in the game until they have three outs.
And you got it – the last kid standing on base is the winner.
Jack, Ted and I held down the bases. Hula-hoops served beautifully for bases, since all five kids could squeeze a foot onto safe ground. We started the ball on its rounds and the action took off.
At 9, Lucy is the eldest and the tallest of the kids. She is also a fast runner.
At first, we didn’t try all that hard to tag any of the kids, but the level of competition elevated and so did the shrieks. Eddie taunted us, leaving a base and then racing back. His sister simply streaked for a base, abruptly changing course if it looked like she couldn’t beat the ball.
Natalie played the odds, figuring she was safest when her cousins were also on the run. It worked. She often found safety when the rest of the pack got tagged.
Missed throws were cause for a stampede and also for some chicanery on our part. A ball that was supposedly “lost” in the hedge remained concealed until suddenly produced. The kids caught on quickly. False throws didn’t trick them.
At the youngest, the twins were the surprise. I hadn’t seen them with other kids except on family occasions. They usually stick together and don’t make much of a show, but not this time.
Still wet from the pool, Alex insisted on carrying her towel at first. She quickly discovered it only hindered her ability to out-run an outstretched arm holding a ball and made for a larger target. The towel went by the wayside and soon she was as elusive as the rest. Her strategy was to make a wide circle, leaving the pack, in hopes she would not be worth pursuing.
Her sister, Sydney, looked to break the rules. In gales of laughter, she lifted the hula-hoop and ran with it. At first her cousins thought it was a great idea, and she was the center of attention. It didn’t last.
Jack declared moving the bases illegal, but being perpetually safe wasn’t any fun either. It was taking chances that made for excitement and they loved it. Their tactics varied, and I wondered if what I was witnessing in a simple game of bases was a telltale sign of how they would approach life.
Eddie looked to challenge, even dare us to tag him and then outrace our ability to throw the ball. He was also the first to contest our assertions he had been tagged before he reached the base. When he lost, there was occasionally a bit of pouting. Natalie was focused on winning. Alex just didn’t want to get tagged and, as the elder, Lucy was more of the leader.
Eddie was the last standing in the first game. He made a show of his victory, instantly announcing we should play a second game to pull off a second win. But that made him a target and, to his chagrin, he was one of the first to be eliminated – a lesson, perhaps?
In the end, it came down to Lucy and Sydney. Lucy’s sprint for safety failed, leaving Sydney in the ring of safety. She was totally amazed. She hadn’t thought of winning; just being safe.
Jack announced her victory and gave her a high five. She didn’t know how to react. She looked embarrassed. She had taken chances and won. Suddenly she had a new role – she was the last girl standing – and she giggled with delight.