Red Light, Green Light

It was just a game.

Or so I thought.

It was more than a game because over the years the memory of it all has been like a seed. It was planted. It was nourished. It grew. And, most of that was done unbeknownst to me. Yeah, that’s right, I was caring for precious memories without even trying. Yes, I was.

The game was Red Light, Green Light. The participants were thus: There was The Keeper of the Red and Green Lights (their hands. the lights were their hands), and everybody else. The person who was the Red Light, Green Light was the ‘It’. That’s what we always called out. Once the game was chosen the first child to yell out, “I get to be it!” or, “I’m it!” first was It. They held the fate of everybody else in the palm of their hands (that’s where we kept the red and green lights).

All the other children were the would-be-‘It’ers. We all wanted to be It. We loved to be the It. Unless it was Tag. Almost nobody wanted to be the It in Tag. That, however, is a different story altogether. Anyway, the non-It’s. The non-It’s would mass behind the It at a distance randomly determined by the flippant whims of childhood. What was the weather like? Was this right after lunch or first recess before lunch? Did we have a lot or a few players? Was the one kid who liked to run real fast and always got to be It forever playing? Stuff like that.

After It was in place, and everybody else was ready, the It would turn their back to the mob and call out, “Red light.” This signaled for the mob to rush forward at whatever speed they desired. Some would make a snail look like the Flash. Some would just walk. Most would bolt at their own risk. There was always the one kid that just ran, every. single. time. and then get out every. single. time. and never cared. They just loved to run and play the game.

See, the point was to reach the It—without them knowing it—and tag them. If you tagged the It, you got to be the It and command the red and green lights. One of the simplest and best games, ever.

Back to the mob, “Red light.” The mob surges forward at independently and at arbitrary random speeds. It turns around to face said mob, “Green light.” Then mob is forced to freeze in place. If any member of the mob moves—for any reason (any reason…)—that individual goes back to the starting point to begin again. The It can be a green or red light for as long as they want. Once, we had a green light for three days. It really wanted one of the mob to fall over and was certain they would because that mob-member was standing on one foot and looked ever so precariously perched upon it. That person just stood there. Smiling. Grinning from ear to ear. Unwavering in both body and spirit. That kid was not going to fall over for the It.

Eventually, It became a red light again and while the rest of us ran, statue kid fell over due to a cramp in his leg from not moving for three days. It was tragic. Out of the kindness of our collected hearts, we let statue kid crawl back to the finish line on his belly and under his own power. He may have lost the chance to be It that round, but, he won our respect and became a legendary hero. His name was immortalized and retold to younger generations for all to know of his glory, forever.

I don’t remember who he was.

Now, all of that was to get to this: My mittens.

I used to have one of the greatest pair of mittens I, or anyone, has ever had—and possibly ever seen. They were policemen. The mittens were knit and designed around the hand for the body and arms. You see, my thumb and little finger went into parts of the mittens that would then become the policeman’s arms. Sort of like puppets. The faces of the policemen were on the inside portion of my fingertips. Then, there were colored bands that wrapped around their bodies. One was red and had the word ‘STOP’ knitted into it. The other was green and had ‘GO’ worked into it. As you might imagine, for my friends, I performed many an unsolicited and ridiculous impromptu puppet show with terribly underthought plots on our way to and from school. I thought they were brilliant. My friends usually did not.

I loved watching the little policemen try and arrest my friends or throw snowballs at them (you try to pack a snowball using only your thumb and little finger). Those mittens were the greatest. Also, when I wore them, I got to be It.

By the arbitrary rules of The Playground (each one establish and ratified by those in attendance at the elementary school at which they apply and to be arbitrarily overturned by the same) if I was wearing my Stop & Go Mittens it only made sense that I would be the red and green lights. Also, I didn’t always have to say, “Red light.” or “Green light.” because not only was it implicitly stated on the palms of my hands. The mittens were color coded. Participants should be able to spot what color the light is. We were at school. This made it an educational game. And, because of the running and freezing in place, it was physical exercise as well. We had it all! Fun. Education. Exercise. What more could you ask for?
Besides cake.

Someone else, apparently.

After about three rounds of me not switching out of the It spot, some new kid who was unfamiliar with our Playground Constitution would suddenly find an amendment that allowed for everyone to, get this, “Take a turn.” Article four, section two, paragraph three, line six.

New kid indeed…

Whatever. It didn’t matter. I loved those mittens. I wore them until they couldn’t fit (I know what I wrote). Way after the point of ‘they didn’t fit’ was ‘couldn’t fit’. This is where stitches begin to burst and assistance is required to put them on and take them off. They were mittens! I didn’t want to give them up. They were such fun. They were hand puppets and game controllers in one!

Eventually Sgt. Go lost the use of his right arm. Officer Stop lost his sight. They both retired with full benefits and honors.

I have wanted to write about those mittens for a while now. Not knowing how to describe them adequately has been the main reason as to why I have not done so yet. However, last week, when I searched through my scrapbook for my Firehouse birthday pictures I spotted the most glorious of glories: The mittens on my hands. I had them on for that birthday! You can’t see the faces or tell that the little policemen each had two arms, but it doesn’t matter. They are there. I can’t believe how ridiculously happy finding a picture of them made me.

I’m the one in the green corduroy pants (I know what I wrote) and you can clearly see Go on my right hand and Stop on my left. I loved those mittens.

Just for fun I did a quick Google search for police stop and go mittens, not really thinking about what would come up. There are electric, light-up, stop and go mittens for law enforcement agents to direct traffic at night, in cold temperatures. One hand lights up green for go. The other lights up red for stop. I kinda want a pair.

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