It's not always easy to do yard duty at lunch recess. While it's true that some days pass without incident, most days have their own share of intrigue and action. Which is why I am glad that Oscar chose to play tag with me over the past couple of weeks. Oscar is a first grader who is prone to mischief and antagonizing others. All in the name of fun. He first came to our little game while watching a classmate of his, Shelly, playing a very small game of tag with me outside. Shelly is a very quiet girl who shies away from big, rowdy games of soccer, basketball or endless loops around the play structure as most of her peers seem to prefer. Shelly would find me, come and stand nearby, taking it all in. After a few days of this, I reached out casually and touched her on the shoulder. "Tag." This brought a smile to her face as she lunged toward me and caught me just above the elbow. "Tag," she replied and dashed away.
It was sometime during the second or third week of the very small game Shelly and I were playing that Oscar stopped by. "Can I play?" Aside from the obvious challenge of doubling the targets, I could think of no reason why not, but I checked with Shelly: "Is it alright if Oscar plays?" She responded in the most telling way, by reaching out and touching him on the shoulder. "Tag." And so it went. Until one day Shelly was busy with something that required her attention more than our ritual game. Oscar showed up, eager as a golden retriever puppy, darting back and forth. It became apparent that when it was just the two of us, Oscar felt the need to step it up a little. His tags were more like pokes and prods, and my lower back and kidneys became peppered by his jabs. All of which I weathered because I knew that there were a dozen or more kids who were relieved of Oscar's attention if he were engaged with me. So we played.
Then, out of nowhere, right after he had lunged forward and poked me in the ribs, I heard him say, "Stop!" It wouldn't be the first time that an elementary school child had lost interest in the middle of a game and was bailing at the precise moment that he had the upper hand. But when I turned around, I saw that Oscar had dropped down to his hands and knees, and his eyes were fixed on something in the middle distance. "Butterfly!" His voice was a hoarse whisper. It took me a moment to locate the object of his fixation. It was at that moment he pounced. The butterfly flitted away, as butterflies will. Followed by Oscar, who spent the next twenty minutes until the bell rang tracking his prey.
I missed him, but my kidneys enjoyed the rest.