Cricket is a big game in Australia. It’s a ‘proper’ commonwealth game inherited by the British, revered by most Australians, which is steeped in tradition and protocol and also slow enough that you can get well drunk and barely miss the highlights (it’s that slow!). The only redeeming quality about the game, I think, is backyard or, ‘street’, cricket. Of which the rules are adjusted to make it a game even granny can play, and allows you to drink while playing. Because Australian’s love the outdoors, it’s not uncommon to drive down a suburban street through a parting gaggle of kids and teenagers who are in the middle of a game.
If you go to BBQ in Australia, it’s very likely a game of cricket, or even football, will emerge. Don’t ask me to tell you the rules of the game besides hit a ball, run and don’t let the other guys hit the ‘wicket’. The main purpose of the street cricket, of course, is about having a good time. I suppose, like any sport, once you take the seriousness out of winning for a living, it actually acts as a great conduit for connection.
I’m currently on a month long visit home to Australia. The reason for this trip was my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration; the “Antique Show” as my family called it (“you coming back home for the antique show love?” my nan would ask).
Besides raising us, my mother’s other job was keeping in touch with her family and if there was a legitimate career in this, she would have been CEO. Uncles and Aunts and cousins and 2nd cousins and great aunts and uncles; they all peppered my life story for a good chunk of my first 20 years. If I were to be really honest, they helped raise me. Their influence, their nurturing, their acceptance of who I was as an individual, even though some I only saw once a year, helped shape and form who I am today. Another reason for coming home was the opportunity to see those family members again, some family I hadn’t seen in 15 years and some I had yet to meet (a concept that seemed absurd to me).
While I was curious and excited to see family members again, what I hadn’t expected was the connection through simple lineage that emerged. Young cousins who rarely see each other, because everyone is spread around the country, got together and started the formation of their own experience of family. We’ve all been raised differently, in different states, with different lifestyles and values and yet, it was over a game of cricket where family evolved.
With an old shovel, a dustbin and a scrappy ball a game emerged. Little ones were coaxed away from their portable video games, half sized ones were encouraged and nurtured out of their shyness to ‘give it a go’ and older ones reminisced about the days that they could run faster and hit the ball harder. In a very short time any differences that might have been obvious if conversation were the only means of finding similarity, merged into a good old game of street cricket.
It was my favorite ‘new’ memory of family (besides my grandmother jumping out of her seat when a balloon popped because she thought my grandfather actually shot her with a fake gun!)
There were a few family members who couldn’t make the day but I know that the next game of cricket that we all play will pick up just where this one left off.
Play is important in life, not just for the joy of it but for forging relationships. This game wasn’t about winning, actually, it was about being together, laughing and shouting and feigning some sort of competition to nurture banter and recognition. For most of the day, those video games were forgotten about, kids got sweaty and their parents didn’t seem to have too hard a time getting them to bed that night.