I performed my first ‘pass the parcel’ at the Major’s fourth birthday recently. I never knew it could be so difficult.
My memory of the game as a child is mostly negative. That it brought out the worst in its participants. And that it was a format easily corrupted by acquisitive little shits trying the game the system by lingering on the parcel as it made its journey round the group. I was determined that the Major’s party games wouldn’t descend into acrimony and tantrums so took the necessary steps. I may have overthought it.
To ensure that every attendee at least a minor sense of victory we included a small treat within each layer of wrapping and enough layers so that each child got a treat. The result was a hugely bulbous package. We had in effect turned a light-hearted moment of fun into a test of endurance. There were children suffering repetitive strain injury in their tiny hands, having been forced to the lug the monster parcel around again and again. It was a pass the parcel-athon. Some of the kids were passing around sponsorship forms to raise money from their efforts.
As the package dwindled in size so did the interest. Before long the circle was on the brink of breaking up, attention drifting off to the bouncy castle or a nearby sausage roll or a white-painted wall. We avoided tears of disappointment but replaced them with tears of boredom.
We tried to get clever with the music. Instead of a simple portable CD-player we placed a wireless speaker in the centre of the circle in the hope of creating an immersive sonic experience for the competitors. It actually sounded more like a tiny man singing from the next suburb. No wonder eyes were looking towards the emergency exits. One of the kids called me DJ Fire Alarm. When the music stopped it was almost inaudible; often I had to explain that it had stopped to the baffled circle.
The knack of stopping the music in pass the parcel is to do so when then the package is squarely in one pair of hands. If the stop happens while there are four mitts on the parcel then there’s a real risk of controversy about ownership. I envisaged having to build an elaborate system of mirrors in order to time pressing the pause button without anyone noticing but in actuality I stood in plain sight adjacent to the ring. Nobody was looking at me, too enrapt in sausage rolls.
Much to everyone’s relief after a few exhausting hours the game ended. The prize had landed in the hands of a little boy who immediately donated it to the Major. At first I thought fatigue had scrambled his mind. But it seemed that he was simply observing a protocol unknown to me that the birthday boy should take the spoils. In any case it was a charming gesture. It seems that some kids aren’t acquisitive after all. And I had definitely overthought it.