Recently I read a blog about the Black Plague. Briefly, the author mentioned the nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosy.” I always knew it came from the Black Plague, but for some reason it hit me just then that it had been passed down child to child for over 600 years! A long time for a song to survive.
What about “London Bridge is Falling Down?” which is from when the London Bridge was actually crumbling under Londoner’s feet. According to Walt Disney’s The Truth About Mother Goose (1957) the rhyme refers to the deterioration of the original London Bridge (built in 1176, which had been considered a wonder of the world), due to a combination of age and the Great Fire of London in 1666. (Wikipedia)
Whether Disney had it historically accurate, or you prefer to embrace other theories about the bridge, it still remains that the song we learned as children is very old. My friends and I had a game we played with the song. Two children would join hands and hold them up, while other friends would file under the “bridge”. After the first verse was over, the “bridge” would capture one of the children, and sing, “take a key and lock her up…” while rocking the lucky child back and forth. That child then became a new half of the “bridge.”
This brought back a rash of memories of games I played, that my parents, and their parents played. I remember bouncing a ball and singing “A my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Alan, we come from Alabama, and we bring back Apples.” Then onto the next letter in the alphabet. When you came to a letter and stumbled, you handed the ball over to the next child.
A silly game we also played was holding hands, forming a circle, with one who would weave his or her way in and out under the linked hands of the group. We’d sing “Go in and out the windows, go in and out the windows.” Then he or she would “wash the dirty windows” by pretending to wash each person’s face. Then “stand before your partner.” Now the “washer” would stand in front of one of his friends, and they would both “go in and out the windows” until no one was left to be the windows. Sound silly? We loved it.
How about Farmer in the Dell? Another hold hands in a circle and sing the song, picking out the farmer, his wife, the child, the dog, etc. Everyone wanted to be the cheese, because at the end “the cheese stands alone.”
I learned all those songs and games from my parents, who learned them from their parents, as far back as anyone could remember.
Alas, I fear a huge part of our childhood legacy has been lost with the emergence of video games, Wii, organized sports, and numerous enrichment classes for children.
I feel sad to think of songs and the games that went with them, that survived for hundreds of years, being lost. Before I wrote this, I asked my twenty year old daughter is she remembered any of these songs and games. Because she has a crazy mother, who taught them to her and her friends while other kids were playing with their video games, she remembered. Was that tears in her eyes as she recalled her happy childhood? Hmm. I hope so. But the larger question is will they die with her?
I hope to look out my window one day and see my grandchild singing “take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up…My fair lady.”
If you’re a Baby Boomer, like I am, you may remember some of these games. If not, what games do you remember that were handed down from your family?