Monday, April 01, 2013

The Playgrounds Of My Youth

When I was in fourth grade, on the verge of my 10th birthday, my family packed up and moved to Athens, Greece, where my father's company had been hired by the Greek government to perform a transportation study. I'd moved around a lot even before then, having already lived in Missouri, Connecticut, Texas and South Carolina, but none of these events, while of course impactful, were as transformative as this one. In many ways it was the time my family spent there, and then returning four years later, that most shaped the man I am today.

It's a cliche to say that travel broadened me, but it did. If there could be one thing we did as a nation to make our educational system the best in the world it would be to send every student for a year abroad.

A week from Friday, I'm boarding a plane to return to Athens where I will be speaking at an event (this is where to click for event details) organized by the Dorothy Snot Preschool, a progressive, play-based school located in the heart of city, a stone's throw away from the Acropolis and the Parthenon, one of the playgrounds of my own childhood. And these antiquities, these remains from the cradle of Western civilization, really did serve for a time as our climbers, our monkey bars, our slides, and our playhouses. My brother, sister and I clambered over these things, felt the columns with our hands, trod the stairways with our feet, and pretended that we were Zeus, Athena, and Hermes. We chased on another, collected shards of marble in piles, played hide and seek, and, indeed, squatted down to contemplate motes that had perhaps been contemplated by Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

I often thought as I played of those ancient Greek children who had also played there, probably also even playing some of those same games. It's a connection, a thread woven through centuries, that binds me to all the children that have ever played there, right up to the children who play there today, and the ones who will play tomorrow. It's something that simply does not exist in the pages of a book or a lecture delivered from the front of a room.

To say I'm looking forward to my return some four decades later is an understatement. Yesterday, as I celebrated Easter with my family, we talked about celebrating Greek Easter. Mom still dies her eggs red as is the Greek tradition, and we wound up watching slides of our time there. The very thread that ties me to the ancients is also one of those that is woven through our family.

I'm eager to speak with people about what we're doing here in Seattle and to learn about what they are doing in Athens. I'm eager to return to the playgrounds of my youth and to once more play with the people I meet there.

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1 comment:

Juliet Robertson said...

This is very cool and exciting! I'm so pleased for you! High five from Scotland!