Then again, Mother Nature has fooled us before. But if she pulls a dirty trick this weekend, it's comforting to know I have The Family Book of Sports and Games to fall back on.
The 1954 guide to "rules and inside strategy for over 500 games" was unearthed during a particularly damp summer afternoon at my cousins' Quebec chalet. Books like this little gem have been replaced by search engines that can dial up diversions by the dozen, but plug "Watermelon Scramble" into any of them and you won't get this back:
"The group (in our case, four desperate parents and four kids on the verge of meltdowns) should be divided into two equal teams. Each team marks a spot on the water's edge for its goal. One player swims out with a greased watermelon and leaves it in the water. Both teams are lined up at the shore. At a signal, everyone jumps in the water and races toward the melon. The object is to bring the melon back to goal."
Suffice to say that Watermelon Scramble is loads of chaotic fun. If The Family Book of Sports and Games was still in print, however, I would email author Helen Joseph (or the executor of her estate?) and suggest that she include these points in the next edition:
1. Don't try to catch the watermelon, as evidenced by the watermelon-shaped bruise on my chest.
2. Don't spike the melon on the shore after scoring, unless you want the game to last less than 42 seconds.
3. Children tend to heave the melon at groin level, as evidenced by the disconcerting welt on
my...you get the idea.
These days, instructions for a game like this would be rife with disclaimers about beach safety, water contamination and the use of genetically modified melons. But back in '54, these issues were the least of parents' concerns, what with "Johnny, Jump the Fence" on the menu. As described by TFBOSAG:
"A penknife should be stuck a little way into the ground on a slant with the head leaning toward the 'fence,' which is formed when the player puts his left hand on the ground, with his little finger lying on the ground, and his palm facing the knife. With his right hand, he slaps the knife upward toward the fence. The object is to make the knife jump over the fence and stick in the ground on the other side..."
I'm pretty sure Children's Aid would be called within seconds if someone saw my kids playing "Johnny, Jump the Fence."
Likewise with "Mumblety Peg," in which "all the children sit around in a circle. Each has his own jackknife..." I won't describe all the game's "trials," but they involve holding a blade in various finger- and ear-endangering positions and trying to stick it in the ground (and not in your friend's foot).
To be fair, TFBOSAG does include a few disclaimers of its own. But they are mostly hilarious. For the knife games, it cautions players to "remember that any game with knives can be dangerous unless the players are careful at all times." (The same goes for chainsaw and grenade games, right?) It adds that by playing slowly, the "chances of being hurt are fewer." (Read: stab wounds are inevitable, but less frequent.)
Then there's the addendum to the self-explanatory "Pie Eating Contest," which reminds contestants that "the pies should be edible."
Last but not least, there's the "Javelin Throw," a beach-picnic standby that "can be a measure of throwing ability to keep the men busy while the women prepare the food."
Come to think of it, maybe the cottage games of 1954 weren't so bad after all...