Written one summer years ago by my nieces and nephew.
1) Go out the exit.
2) Go in the entrance
3) Be quiet when the President is talking
4) Do not sneak off
5) Go to each meeting
6) Don’t trash the club
7) Do what ever the boss says to do
8) Be quiet when the boss is talking, OK!
I live in the center of a southern University town and my very large back yard backs up to a small creek which has ambled through this city for a hundred years or more and is now used for rain drainage. Like any creek bank in the south, my land is mostly sand and oak trees with old camellias, azaleas, dogwood and magnolias planted long before I was here. My nieces and nephews used this yard to fight dragons, lead wagon trains to California and points west, fight pirates coming down the creek at night with only fireflies to light their way, and take turns swinging for hours on the old tire swing held by Bill, the mighty Chinquapin Oak’s, lowest limb. There is a climbing tree which has been known to house more than three kids at a time, there is a section of the patio under the gazebo called, ‘the dangerous place where angry old people in wheel chairs will jump out and chase little kids with a stick’, and there is a section in the back corner of the fence down by the creek under ancient over-grown gardenia bushes, called the ‘club house’. This was the favorite place to be once all the other adventures of the day were over. Snacks were served at this time, many times popcorn or marshmallows and on good days, a dill pickle wrapped in paper towel and always tin glasses of water from the hose.
The kids would rake leaves into paths going in and coming out of the overgrown haven of the club house. Thus Rule #1 and Rule #2.
Sitting on my porch I could hear the squeals of delight when all were in agreement and the cries of anger and aguish when disagreements occurred. It was usually pretty noisy at one of their meetings. Rule #3.
When this anguish would persist the youngest would throw the lower lip out of joint, leave the meeting in defiance and come to the porch. Rule #4.
When a meeting was called, all in the yard had to comply. Rule #5.
When a marshmallow or popcorn war ensued, you could count on Rule #6.
The loudest niece was always chosen or voted herself in as president or ‘boss’. Rule #7.
Since the gang wasn’t always happy about this choice of ‘boss’, the boss had to make Rule #8.
The ‘OK’ on the last rule was a compromise the boss made when I suggested she not be so ‘bossy’. I told her to ask nicely.
These little hand written, badly spelled rules are the dearest thing to me, but if you look closely you will see they are universal.
The kids now grown into young adults still talk about the ‘Club House’. It hasn’t changed, there are still ropes hanging from branches, old plastic child garden chairs buried in the leaves and an occasional string of mardi gras beads left from a parade of small kids with wagons full of stuffed animals and dolls marching to the music of a badly played harmonica.
I say to my friends who are just becoming parents or grandparents. You have ten years. The first two are baby years, and after twelve, the kids are smarter than you and are toooo sophisticated to be fun anymore. That leaves three to eleven for kids to be the greatest gift this world knows. I hope you all have a climbing tree in your backyard and maybe a club house.