Bucket Head is a game. A great game. One of our favorites.
It involves me putting a yellow plastic bucket over one of my kids’ heads until their face is completely covered and then using it for a drum. All the while loudly chanting, “Buuuucket HEAAAD! BucketHeadBucketHead!” I drum fairly lightly, and they laugh and laugh and then it’s my turn to wear the bucket. It is elegant in its simplicity.
The game has evolved. Now the Peanut plays it with her little brother. In her version, she runs at him and slams the bucket down over his wispy, blond-haired, unsuspecting head and then wails on it with everything she’s got.
Just pounds the snot out of him. While screeching “BUCKET HEAD!!!” like an insane bird of prey.
The Pumpkin Man usually vacillates between laughing and crying until I can rescue him. He’s so happy she’s playing with him, but man, love hurts. She smiles and screams his name and tells me, “He likes it, Daddy. He likes it!”
It’s a little frightening for everyone. In a good way.
At our twice-weekly YMCA playgroup, not everyone talks to me. It’s mostly moms. Some of them are nice, many are standoffish. Some of the standoffish ones even go to the trouble of carrying extra, suspicious, mistrustful stares in their diaper bags that they drag out just for me.
There are times when I’m self-pitying about it and I wonder what I did wrong. Of course, when I’m honest with myself, I know what I did.
It started innocently enough. I was over to the side, playing a game of Bucket Head with my kids.
Some of the other kids noticed. They were intrigued. Who wouldn’t be?
Being naturally friendly, I shared our family game with them. At first it was just a couple of the bolder 3-year-olds. They, in turn, passed it on. Paid It Forward.
In a flash, toddlers everywhere were playing Bucket Head. Playing it hard. Like a campfire in a meth lab, it quickly got out of control. Toddlers, dozens of them — maybe hundreds — eyes wild, unseen mouths flecked with foam, running blindly, screaming, “Bucket Head!”
(Some of them had placed the bucket on their own heads and were stumbling around the gym, the call of Bucket Head echoing out from under their plastic headwear. That is not how the game is played. I mean – c’mon, guys. Pay attention. Which is something I probably shouldn’t have been saying at that moment.).
We ran out of buckets early on. They used plastic bins, toy strollers, Big Wheels, Playskool garages; whatever plastic toy they could cram onto each other’s heads and then thump. Tiny warrior-savages careening around, smiting the stuffing out of each other, crashing into each other. Screaming and eventually, swearing.
“Bucket Head! Fucking Buuucket Heaaad! GAAAHH!”
Civilizations collapsed and the playgroup plunged into chaos. Darkness. Not unlike the darkness you might experience if you were to have a bucket suddenly descend, unbidden, over your eyes.
It took us a long time to recover. Not everyone has forgiven me.
I wonder if they would like Cymbal Feet any better?