It’s a hard-knock life, dear readers.
I’ve been trying for weeks now to write about a frightening event. Something so God-awful that it rattled the Scrabble tiles right out of me. I need to write about it; I must write about it. But I’ve got nothing.
Instead I am writing around it.
Guess where I was late yesterday afternoon? Sitting at the top of our jungle gym with Ryan and Oliver, watching the sun set and the aeroplanes from Lanseria slice across the orange skies over our house.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how free I was, physically, as a child. Alive. Present. Anchored to Mother Earth in my being. Every cell in my body quivering with vitality.
How I used to climb the jungle gym in the backyard of my grandmother’s house, skeletal toes hooked on the green-painted bars like a fierce little bird. I could feel the tendons in calves and thighs flex and pull taunt as I balanced on a single metal beam, right at the very top, and walked back and forth across like it was a tightrope and I was a circus performer. Arms stretched out to the side for balance, my six-year-old body a fine-tuned instrument of strength, agility and control.
Think about it. How long has it been since you felt that way? Like you could race underwater from one end of the swimming pool to the other in a single breath; young, strong legs propelling you fast as the wind to chase down the ice-cream truck at the end of your street?
Years. Decades. Too long.
“Yook! Yoook at me, mommy!”
(Soon-to-be) three-year-old Ryan never expected me to climb up there, to perch on the jungle gym bars above the tyre-swing with him.
And how sad, that my children know in their bones that I am not as physically – what is the word – ‘exuberant’ maybe, as they are. That mommy is not going to chase 30 times around the makeshift dirt track in the backyard, pushing the plastic bike behind them in a fierce and joyful race to the imaginary finish line.
That’s what I was thinking – “Fuck this, I’m climbing up” – as I grappled with the nylon netting, pulling my 76kgs up to the top bars of the jungle gym where Ryan waited for me. Oliver, who is only 15 months and no good at climbing jungle gyms just yet, asked to climb up so, so I fetch him and moved the party to the top of the slide where there was space for the three of us to sit together in the last warmth of the afternoon sun, their skinny arms looped in mine – one storey above the ground.
There we sat, the three of us, with Travis the Lionheart giggling up at this ridiculous scene from behind netted curtains, lying on his bed in the sun, where he likes to spend his afternoons these days.
Ryan, Oliver and I watched the Jozi sunset from the top of the jungle gym, saw all the cars pulling into driveways in our neighbourhood, listened to the chirping of birds mingling with the rush of traffic, and the rustle of leaves high in the big trees as the cold front blowing in from Cape Town arrived in the West Rand.
After the boys left for school this morning, I climbed back up and sat on the very top bars like I used to when I was a child, and drank a mug of tea.
Because life is short. And jungle gyms are fun.