This I Believe

Bernie - Redondo Beach, California
Entered on December 12, 2006

I believe in fun.

I started believing in fun, professionally, in the Spring of 1969, in Philadelphia, at a place called the “Intensive Learning Center.” In the amphitheater. During a game of Duck-Duck-Goose.

I had my Master’s in Theater and after I was hired by the School District of Philadelphia to write a drama curriculum for elementary school teachers. I was working with inner-city children between the ages of 5-11, most of whom were sent to us because they were someone else’s behavior problem.

Nothing I tried really worked. They didn’t warm-up to the warm-ups. They were too skittish for the skits. O, they were polite. Finally, out of desperation, I asked them if there were anything at all that they actually wanted to do together. “Yes,” they chorused, “play a game.”

“You know,” they appended, “like Duck-Duck-Goose.” “Duck-Duck-Goose”? That’s the game where everyone sits in a circle and one kid, the Fox, taps each kid on the head and says “Duck” until she reaches the one kid she wants to get chased by. She calls the kid “Goose.” The Goose stands up and gives chase. If tagged by the Goose before getting to the Goose’s vacated seat, the Fox has to start over again. If not tagged, the kid that got, um, chosen is the new Fox.

For us potential Geese, it was all about acting like you wanted to get chosen (or not). Too enthusiastic or blasé, and you stay a Duck forever. For the Goose, it was about whom do you pick, and how hard do you run. Pick a friend who is faster than you? Pick someone you don’t like who is slower than you? Pick someone you want to like? Someone you want to like you?

And once the Goose is chosen, the game achieves something like high drama. The Goose jumps up and gives chase. Can the Fox make it back to the Goose’s home place and free herself of the curse of Foxhood? Will the Goose tag the Fox and damn it to yet another cycle of Foxiness? Unless, of course, the Goose doesn’t really want to catch the Fox. Unless the Goose actually wants to become Fox herself. But what if the Fox wants to remain Fox? What if she doesn’t run so fast, or stumbles, or has other sly strategies for maintaining her Foxiness yet another round?

As the drama unfolds, the rest of us Ducks, temporarily relieved of any further involvement, observe in relieved delight. Will the Fox make it? Is it a good chase? Do they run as if being Fox or Goose were as important as life itself?