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Saturday, February 12, 2011


I teach art in a West Kendall elementary school. I often walk past a playground where young kids seem focused on screaming and chasing each other.
Having a few minutes to spare last week I entered the fenced-in area to visit. After the first rush of kids high-fived me a 5-year-old boy smiled and said, "Bet you can't catch me!".
Although I'll be turning 64 next week I thought, "Heck, he's barely three feet tall. I bet I could."

I often think I can do what I once did. For twenty years I played touch football with friends. It was the most fun I have ever had playing sports. It ebbed to a stop in my twenties when my football buddies moved away.
Since then, every time I see young men playing the game I have the urge to join them.

Fifteen years ago I was working in a North Dade middle school. When our eighth graders began playing football at a school picnic they let me join in. It was great to be fifteen again but on the third play something popped in my leg and I was on the injured list.
Three days later, good as new, I waited for the next game that never came. Most guys my age barely move but if they do, it's to play golf, tennis, or walk. Running out for a pass yelling, "Hit me!", is not on the menu.

But last week, I answered the boy in the playground with, "I bet I can!".
He smiled, ran off, and I followed.

There I was chasing this kid amongst a gaggle of other five-year-olds. He seemed very fast for his age and the lad could turn on a dime.
The supervising teacher (let's call her "Gail") must have thought I'd gone nuts. My mind told me I could easily catch the little rabbit but my body was not agreeing. As he darted and laughed Gail called out , "Mr. Terry!".

I ambled over to her totally winded and was advised, "Workman's compensation won't cover you when you fall. Playing is not part of our job". I thought about it for a moment, thanked her, and resumed the chase.

With one last burst of old man's speed I reached out and made the tag. The boy laughed and ran off to chase someone else.

It was bewildering that catching a kid could be so hard. No wonder some are kept on leashes. Still, I was proud of my accomplishment.
As I left the play area a fourth grader who had been watching said, "Congratulations Mr. T. Those five-year-olds are awfully fast".
I had to agree.

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