We had been at the park for just a few minutes when they pulled up. The car was white with dark, smokey tinted windows. We waited, as we do, to see who would emerge, so often unexpected playground delight comes in the form of new friends. Afte a time a little girl scampered out, about Fin’s age. Her hair was long, with lazy, looping curls that lapped at her waist. She sparked memories of watching Brave, for the unruliness of her hair, though it was a lighter red, and the determination with which she eventually squeaked, kicked and willed her way up into the tire swing.
“Mommy, mommy push me. Do the hot air balloon.”
Silence. I watched my own girls, they had taken a few steps back, uncharacteristically refraining from striking up a conversation with the new kid.
“Maaaaw-m. Mom! Please push me.” The skin on her neck was translucent and as she arched her back trying to catapult herself into a swinging motion while calling to her mom, the veins pulsed and it looked as if her skin might tear right open.
“Push yourself,” came the response. Might have been her mom. There were two of them, mid twenties I’d guess, leaned up against the car, sugar free torpedoes of Red Bull in one hand, cell phones in the other. I remember looking for cigarettes, sure they’d light up. Judgement. I itched with annoyance at myself.
“My feet can’t touch,” she grunted as she continued trying to move her tiny body and the large tire. My feet were rooted to the ground. I wanted to push her but it felt wrong, like it wasn’t my place. Yet time after time I have pushed other kids on the playground as their parents sat absorbed in something else.
“Uh, just. Want. To. Do the hot air balloon.” She managed to make the tire twitch, but it wouldn’t budge to anything resembling a swinging motion. My own girls slipped away, one to a slide, the other two behind a climbing wall. I followed, catching from the corner of my eye a 2 year old boy teetering away from the women and their Red Bulls. Two more women approached with more children. One had an older girl, maybe 8, she immediately went to the little boy and shadowed him. Then there were four women with phones and drinks not watching. I turned back to my own girls.
We tested our callouses on the monkey bars, careened along the zip line and chased each other up the climbing wall. I wonder if they think I’m nuts playing. Not sure if I meant the parents or the kids. Normally I play with all the kids and they play with me, not by design, just happens. We continued circling and sprinting this way and that until we inevitably ended up back at the now empty tire swing. Finley held her arms up and I lifted her in. The little girl came out of nowhere. “Too?”
I looked at Fin, looked at the little girl and then nodded toward her mom, “This ok?” I asked. She nodded. I lifted the little girl up, Fin immediately jumped out. I gave the red head a push and then asked Fin if she wanted to be on the other swing. She shook her head and stepped back. Ave stepped up. “I will.” I stood there pushing Ave on the regular swing and the little red head on the tire swing. Soon the girl who’d been watching the toddler came over. “Can I swing too?” she asked almost apologetically.
“Sure, can you get up or do you need help?” I asked. A nod and then, “I need help.” I lifted her in as Avery smiled. I learned that doing the hot air balloon means swinging them high and spinning them. Briar and Finley climbed the play structure and watched as I pushed the two swings. I began to feel calmer, more like it was just a playground filled with happy kids. I had just spun them upward when I saw the blur. He was so tiny. A little white tank top like an old man would wear and plaid shorts. His hair was buzzed and he had full lips, one ear tipped in at the top. He hurried into the well beneath the tire swing as the girls and their hot air ballooning tire swing rushed at him. I grabbed the swing, torquing it to the side.
The women watched, kind of shaking their heads, “Ya gotta watch.”
I whispered he’d go boom if the swing hit. I gave the girls a gentle nudge and went back to Avery. They managed to launch themselves in the tire swing again. The boy was toddling around and came over to Ave’s swing, again slipping fast into the well. I pulled her off of the swing and away from him. “Careful,” I warned. He ran under the tire swing, which hit him. The mom came over, grabbing him by one arm and dragging him away, “Sometimes it feels like you gotta let’em just feel it,” she said to me. I nodded, “I let one of mine get singed with a match once.” She wasn’t really listening. They walked away as she said,” I don’t feel like spending the night in the ER.”
I gave the girls a warning as I watched her go back to the group and her phone. The little boy ran a few feet away and threw himself face first on the ground. We walked quietly to the car. There were no waves or “see you next times.”
We just left.
This post is a part of the Just Write series, which asks you to write whatever is happening around you WHILE you are writing (sometimes that’s the very best)OR whatever DETAILS you remember about your day or a specific experience.
Next, try not to clarify or explain what you want to speak through your post too much. (Try not to force a theme or message.) Just write your experiences. What did you: See? Smell? Touch? Feel? Hear? What did it make you think?
Then watch how your ordinary and extraordinary experiences speak all on their own. That’s it! Just Write.