New name for this blog (formerly known as Front Porch)… Ghost of Midnight. This online journal is all about fostering community within neighborhoods, with a special focus on the progress of Front Porch Forum.
As a kid growing up in Indiana, yea these many decades ago, a call would go out sometime after dinner as the sun was fading from the Indian summer sky… “Ghost of Midnight.” This name brings back a wonderful sense of community within the neighborhood that nurtured me and my siblings… just came back to me now apropos of nothing. So now it’s the name of this blog.
A couple dozen kids would trickle into our backyard. Some dressed in dark clothing. A game of Smear the Queer (evidence that the good ol’ days weren’t in fact all good), where one person would run wildly about while everyone else would try to tackle him, would invariably start among the early arrivals. Once a few more people joined, the game would morph to the inverse, British Bulldog… where a couple kids in the middle of the yard would try to tackle whoever they could as the pack streaked across the grass… picture a couple of young lions thinning a herd of passing gazelles.
Once enough bodies arrived, the main attraction was underway. Everyone would cling to the rusty jungle gym in our backyard and then a couple of the older kids who were “it” would start counting… “one o’clock, two o’clock,… 12 o’clock… GHOST OF MIDNIGHT!”
By “Midnight” the other 20 friends had scattered across three yards, each hiding wherever they could. You had to stay within the property lines, and outdoors. The guys who were it would typically round up the littlest kids first. Once tagged, they had to return to base, the jungle gym, to await their fate in the fading light. Oh… and all outdoor lights had been extinguished.
The fun came as the prisoner count mounted. The first “big kid” tagged set the tone for the game… who was going to win? The guys who were “it” would win once they had tagged everyone and sent them all to base at the same time. However, if a free kid ran by and tagged the base and yelled “GHOST OF MIDNIGHT” before getting tagged himself, then all were free.
As a younger kid, I became very familiar with base strategy. Once caught, the prisoners would form a human chain with one end hanging onto a rope tied to a cross bar on the base and the other end someone’s kid sister flailing around in the dark yelling “free us, free us!”
And then, out of the blackness… footfalls approaching… yes! And then a second set… oh no!! “Get ready, get ready!” Some kids were known for self-preservation (they’d streak by and not tag the base if it was too risky to their own status), while a few others were heroes… diving to tag kid sister’s outstretched hand and hollering “GHOST OF MIDNIGHT” seconds before getting the wind knocked out of him as he was sandwiched between the hardpacked ground and the piling on pursuer… who inevitably took the opportunity to get in a few cheap shots.
The base was empty, save the lone hero, grass-stained, sore and smiling, waiting to be rescued (often times, in fact, by the same kid sister who’d circle around in the confusion to liberate her hero).
And the game continued. We’d play as late as our kid-relieved parents would allow. The later, the darker, the better. I could tell stories all day… the sidewalk feint, the concealing power of shadows, the perfect hiding spot conundrum, and then there was one…
This was neighborhood. So much is different today.
Well, summer is coming to Vermont… maybe it’s time to put out the call… “Ghost of Midnight.”