Yes, smarty pants, I meant to spell “tales” that way. After all, how could I resist such an apt homophone when today’s yarn is all about cat tails? Bushy stalks of grass that swish the air and pretend to be cat tails that is, and I’m not even talking about the tall reeds that grow in marshes…I’m talking about long, straw-colored pieces of grass that were the most fluffy of cat tails in the imaginations of five children last night. While walking my dog through our neighborhood, I came upon a group of third graders with tall blades of grass in their, err, you can finish the rhyme. Vulgarities aside, all but one child – the lone boy – had these pieces of grass wedged into their back pockets. The girls pranced and held their hands out like claws while the boy chased them around with a stick. When the young lad got winded, he took a break and explained to me that they were playing “Cat Wars” and he was the cat fighter. His objective was to knock the tails off of all the cats, and when he succeeded he’d get to become a cat himself. I almost swooned at the fact that these kids came up with such an inventive game on their own, but a part of me also stifled back chuckles at what the devil on my shoulder kept whispering about the connotations of the game.
In all fairness, this was a game about chasing cat tails – can you honestly tell me you hear that and don’t expect a punchline? I sure wish I didn’t, but we live in a society where everything is a dirty joke waiting to happen, and we run the risk of either missing out on laughs or becoming the butt of jokes ourselves if our smut meters aren’t calibrated. This contrast between the innocent children’s game and its sexual connotations got me wondering when exactly boys stop dreaming of becoming pussy cats and start chasing them. Does the change happen at puberty – is it then that we abandon make-believe games in favor of sexual fantasies? If so, do kids lose the ability to pretend at this time or do they simply reject imaginative games to make themselves more appealing to the opposite sex? These aren’t rhetorical questions, because I really don’t know the answers. What I do know is this: I would love to recapture the feeling of running around with straw stuck to my butt without a care in the world. If anyone’s up for a game of “Cat Wars,” just name the park.