On The Playground

At six and a half, you are both small and big. You can climb, race, throw, swing, and swagger in a way that even a year ago you could not. Activities that were daunting are now easy; scrambling up a ladder, climbing a tree. You hardly have to think. All the things you used to watch the older kids do, eyes wide in wonder, you can now do. And then some. Your agile little body fits into small hidey-holes; gaps in the bushes that are forests to you, crevasses in the play structure that are entrances to spaceships or conduits to Hogwarts. When you flap your arms, you have wings, you are a bird. Not pretending to be, but actually, for if you can picture it, it is so.

You are casually brutal. The facts of violence are so absurd to you that they are funny. You tell a friend you’ll take his head off, after he tell you he’ll chew your arm, and you both dissolve into laughter. As much as your parents try to teach you about kindness, thoughtfulness, gratitude and grace, stepping on your friend’s foot and having your stepped on in return is a much more visceral way to learn about the benefits of keeping the peace. And it’s funny. And kind of fun. And it didn’t really hurt. Besides, sticks are swords and swords are fun. Thousands of years have taught us so. Stamp. Stamp. Stamp. The ant is dead.

You, and not just you, your friends too, enjoy games involving law and order. There are rules in this world, you know. Someone must be arrested. Some one must be locked up. Intruders must be kept out. Punishment must be meted out, and you are the righteous for that is what you have been told. Someone is bad. Someone is good. You are both, are you not? So bad you are good? So good you are bad? It’s not that complicated, is it?

Sometimes you get stuck. You climbed to the top of the wall. But how to get down? Well, you jump.

Being silly is great. You’re not sure how the grown-ups don’t understand why saying “dum dum dum dum dum dum poo poo” over and over and over again is the most hilarious thing ever. But you also don’t much care. It’s their loss, obviously. You know what’s up. They don’t.

The world is endlessly surprising but also surprisingly boring. You know that there is the potential for magic around every corner. You’ve experienced it  yourself: finding frogs in puddles on the road, turtles basking on the concrete in Morningside Park, kestrels chasing red tailed hawks in the wilds of Central Park, Teslas waiting outside schools doors open for you to climb into, hybrid cabs waiting to be hailed including drivers willing to chat. But sometimes , when you leave the house with a sense of adventure filling your chest, aware of the potential delights that await, nothing happens. And this is deflating. But luckily, you are easily inflatable, and all it takes is puffball mushroom, an eft, wild strawberries, or even a ride on an electric bus to set you on the right path. The odometer only goes up to 120!

Some grown ups are pretty great. Seeing your teacher on the street is an existential experience, like going to Lourdes. Your parents are mostly wonderful except when they are totally horrible because they are not doing what you want, like permitting you to watch television all day. Some days you don’t wan to do anything! Isn’t that ok? No, apparently not. And there you are, racing through the halls of the museum again, being told how lucky you are. You don’t quite understand what this means, but it’s fine. There are stuffed Golden Eagles here.

The best adults are the ones that surprise you and give you tangible things, like the elderly woman you met near the Reservoir who gave you her own laminated foldable bird card, or the man on the train that gave you a small hand puppet. The second best are the ones that like to talk to you like you too are an adult. The ones who listen to you and wait for you finish your thought (you have so many words, but sometimes you trip yourself up looking for the exact right one. Sometimes you even make a word up. What is a junction? A put in. Where the cars get put in.) These are the ones who don’t cut you off so they can just tell you their things. Their things are not nearly as interesting as yours and you appreciate that they know this.

When you are six and a half, days are very long. It makes no difference if you had ice cream yesterday; as far as you are concerned, that was an eon ago, and the dinosaurs are extinct all over again. There is no reason not to have it again tonight.

Sometimes you have no actual control of your own body, your own face. You knees twitch up to your chest and your arms flail at your sides. You want to stop moving, but it’s simply impossible. You’re coursing with energy, like a comet in the night sky. The only thing that can stop you is the inevitable collision. Sometimes its with the couch, sometimes the wall, sometimes with your brother, which is satisfying, because after he lands, thud on the floor, he is a champion screamer. Then, the floor catches you as you collapse into laughter. Your mother is looming in the background saying something but you have a keenly developed sense of ignore (the sixth sense.)

And then you rest.