We used it to determine who was “It” in games of tag, or blind man’s bluff, or kick the can, or whatever. We all stood in a circle with one “duke” extended. Someone said the rhyme and pounded a different fist in the circle on each word.
My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.
My mother punched your mother in the nose.
What colour was the blood?
Whoever owned the duke that coincided with the word “blood” yelled out a colour.
The person then carried on hitting fists in the circle on each letter of the colour word.
Wherever the word ended, that person was It.
I spent some time puzzling over why—heavens why—this rhyme popped into my brain. I hadn’t thought about it in at least four decades. I moved on to analyzing the words. How gruesome! I then pondered who came up with this violent ditty first. What kind of society normalized hand-to-hand combat amongst mothers?
I made me realize the responsibility we have for today’s children.
As children we carved out gun-shaped pieces of wood and played Cowboys and Indians. Guess who always won? Now I cringe about the violence AND racism.
Speaking of racism, another popular It-picking rhyme we used as children started with the words “Eeeny meeny.” Remember that? Would we ever think of using the version we did in the 1960s and 1970s now? You couldn’t pay me to.
But my friends and I played those games, and then went home to mothers who didn’t come to fisticuffs with the neighbours. We recited those rhymes in the playgrounds of schools that taught us about other history and other cultures. Because of the stability and the education, we were able to grow into adults with an expanded world view.
Our responsibility for today’s children is to provide the stability and ensure the education for all, so that violence and racism affect the fewest members of our future generation.