My 4-year old was just telling me the exciting story about how he ended up with a particular Hershey Kiss. He had received a bagful of them for Valentine’s Day, all wrapped in festive colored foil, and after eating a half-dozen or so, was about to get cut off.
“Mommy said I could only have one more ever for the whole entire day,” he told me, “and guess which one I chose?”
“The purple one?” I guessed, seeing as it was still in his hand.
“No,” he said, like I was an idiot. “I picked Mo! I did Eeny Meeny Miny Mo – and Mommy says you can choose Mo or the next one, so I chose Mo because I wanted the purple one!”
“Then why didn’t you just pick the purple one?” I asked. “Why leave it to chance?”
“Who’s Chance?” he wanted to know.
It was too early in the morning to explain (Yes, I said morning. Don’t judge me.) Besides, he had gotten me thinking about the power of Mo. When it comes down to the Final Two, is Mo the winner or the runner up?
I’m pretty sure as kids, we had to declare our position before putting our “potatoes” in. And it wasn’t just Eeny Meeny Miney Mo. We had a wealth of rhymes to help us make life’s biggest decision, namely, “Who would be It?”
But before we determined that (after we decided on what game to play, of course) we first had to figure out who was in charge.
Typically, the first to shout, “King sayer, naysayer, no higher!” got to take control. Their first official act was to inform the group whether we’d be using “potatoes” (our hands) or “puppies” (feet). Then we’d circle up, stick out our fists or feet, and wait for the King to decide which rhyme to start with.
Like I said, we had a bunch of them. From the babyish, “One potato, two potato, three potato, four! Five potato, six, potato, seven potato, more! Out goes Y…O…U!” to the slightly more mature, “Ink-a-dink, a bottle of ink. The cork fell out and YOU stink!” to the PG-13, “My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes. My mother punched your mother right in the nose! What color was the blood?” – at this point, the person whose potato or puppy was last touched had to name a color – and here’s where it paid to be smart, as one could quickly count up the number of people still left in, and then choose a color, that when spelled out, would result in them getting out. Problem was, a sharp King could thwart your plans by changing the wording. Instead of “B…L…U…E….spells blue, and out goes Y…O…U!” They might go with, “B…L…U….E….spells blue, and you…are…OUT!”
Things really got ugly when it got down to the final two, especially if the King was one of them, as there was nothing more embarrassing than being the one in charge and winding up It. But even if the King was safely out, complications still arose based on presumed favoritism between the King and one of the remaining two. Either way, Eeny Meeny Miny Mo was the go-to rhyme to deliver the knockout blow.
You would think that such a simple and silly song would make for a clean and clear decision, but you would be wrong!
First, whether it was between the King and another kid, or just two kids, where the King started (his own potato/puppy, or one of the kid’s) was a hotly contested debate. We all knew that when it came down to two, whoever’s fist or foot was touched first would also be the one to be touched last, and therefore out and not It, so a wise King would always try to start with himself. But if the group balked at this, which we often did, because like I said, there’s nothing more embarrassing than a King being It, he or she had to resort to the ambiguity of Mo.
When it came down to that finally syllable, the kid whose fist was last touched would thrust it in the air and exclaim, “Not It!” But a cagey King could try to convince the crowd that Mo meant the kid was It. And depending on the popularity of the kid, and King, we’d side one way or the other.
Then, after all the arguments, negotiations, and disagreements had been resolved, we’d play the game. Or, more likely, get called in for dinner or bed, as we usually wasted all of our time picking who was It. Clearly, it would have been more expedient to just nominate the kid we didn’t like as It, but that wouldn’t be “fair” so we let Chance decide….with a little help from Mo!