Best way to get to know your new neighbors? Sneak around their yard at night.
When we lived in Vermont, we spent a lot of time with a family from Utah. Most of their kids were a few years older than ours and we liked to see, vicariously, what was coming our way. One of their great traditions was an after-dark game of Cops and Robbers near the end of October. They invited lots of teenagers and some of their parents. Eventually, our oldest daughter was old enough to go and my husband joined her, all clad in black. She’s blonde and so a dark balaclava was usually required. One must be totally invisible in the dark.
So it was with great angst that she watched the end of October approaching here in Utah, knowing that there was a great game planned in Vermont which she would not be able to attend. All her friends… all those years…. But if you can’t keep the past alive, why not try to plant a piece of it in the present? Yes, the traditions won’t be quite the same, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be as fun. Faith. Move forward. Have courage. Invite the neighbors.
This daughter’s birthday happens to be the day after Halloween. She suggested we try our own version of Cops and Robbers. She chose to invite three neighborhood families and two BYU students whom we know well and began to get quite excited about the prospects of making this a great game.
We were unsure of how our next door neighbors would feel if we asked them if the game could cover both our yards. They’re Swedish. Would they think that was a weird request? (Do they already know how weird we are?) We would have to come over and make a map of their yard. Would they agree to that kind of thing? Would the other families come? Would the parents join in? Would the promise of apple pie and ice cream be enough to entice the busy students to come over? What would we put in the “loot” bag the day after Halloween, especially knowing that one of the families doesn’t eat any candy? There were so many questions.
In the end, we had sixteen people- not the whole original group but just as good- a terrific two-yard map, two big pies and loads of fun. It was a great fourteenth birthday party. Since one third of the group spoke Swedish and one third spoke Spanish as their native languages, we had to make sure everyone understood a few important terms before beginning, cheifly “sneaky” and “decoy”.
Cops and Robbers
Rules of the game
1. Ahead of time: prepare a loot bag to be divided up after the last round is over. Also make a map of the territory, including any danger zones because it should be very dark. If you’re serious, you might even check the moon forecast to plan for a super-dark night.
2. Invite friends who have a sense of humor and adventure. Call or stop by the surrounding neighbors to let them know what’s going on so they don’t call the real police.
3. The night of the game: assign one person to be the jailer. Divide the rest of the group into two teams- Cops and Robbers. The jailer hides the loot. Make sure everyone is familiar with the map in general, then all interior and exterior lights should be turned off. Dark is key.
4. When the loot is hidden, let the cops go outside to spread out. Remember that the robbers will lead you to the loot. Allow for some intrigue and fun.
5. The jailer spreads out the map and by flashlight shows the robbers where the loot is hidden for that round. Robbers strategize, assign decoys, etc. The robbers quietly exit the house through any door. Once a cop catches a robber, they must escort them back to the jail door. The jailer remains inside to time them and release them.
6. The first team to return to the jail with the loot wins the round. Teams are re-assigned and the game usually goes for about 2 hours. By the end, you know your neighbors pretty well. And maybe even their yard.
Ta-da! A new tradition is born. We might do it again on New Year’s Eve.