July 15, 2020:

Scale the chainlink fence.

Tall: ten or twelve feet. I'm just a second-grader, so it feels at least twice my height. Drop onto the blacktop on the other side. The tetherball courts are reserved for older kids, perhaps because the authorities fear us young 'uns might be injured.

I'm fascinated by the mechanics of the sport. The goal is to wind the ball around the pole in one direction so that its chain becomes ever shorter, until at last the ball itself has no more play and rebounds against the pole. Bang! Goal achieved. This is fascinating stuff. Kids are whacking the ball back in your direction, so you must time your strike for those narrow windows when they're off-balance or their hands are unable to respond quickly. You have to anticipate the direction the ball will travel from the most recent hit; effectively you're doing complex two-dimensional vector physics in your head in real time while while things are evolving. This is much more compelling than the games for little ones the other second-graders are forced to endure. Throw me in with the big boys. I stay after school to practice.

I'm not allowed though to be here. The reason for the fence is that this part of the schoolyard is off-limits to younger kids. I imagine the concern is that older kids will injure younger ones with their rougher games and more-mature physical strength and coordination. It doesn't seem to matter. Adults including the playground monitors watch me playing. There's no question they know I'm here. They're quite patient to allow me to bend this rule. It's one of the key differences I experience immediately when we move from La Mesa to Clairemont, where I change school districts. There, rules are rules, where the adults function like jailers and bureaucrats. Here, rules subtly morph to fit the individual. This is better.

There's no tetherball at my new school. No marbles, no antlions. There's kickball, teamball, softball, four-square. Importantly, the entire class plays together. If it's our class' turn for the kickball diamond, we all play kickball. Individual initiative, for games like marbles or tetherball or antlions, is not permitted.