Thursday, May 17, 2018

Playing With Garbage

Last week, we made what we've come to call "San Francisco kites." All you need is a breezy day, one of those thin plastic shopping bags, a piece of string, and you're in business.

In 2012, the city of Seattle has banned the use of those plastic bags that once littered our streets and filled the branches of our trees. It was an inconvenience at first, remembering to bring your own re-useable bags to the supermarket, but now it's second nature, like putting on a seatbelt or wearing a bicycle helmet. I continue to support the measure. I can see the difference it has made, but one of the unintended consequences is that they are no longer so easily accessible for us to use around the preschool for things like our simple kites or making rope with our homemade rope-making machine.

Across Lake Washington, for better or worse, the city of Bellevue where my parents live, continues to permit the use of these bags, so I've taken to illicitly importing them, like a smuggler during prohibition. Mom collects them for me and sends me home with several dozen every time I visit. I reckon it won't be long before Bellevue follows suit and then those bags won't be so easy to come by any longer.

In the meantime, we'll enjoy our simple pleasures, these wonderful kites made from garbage, this thumb in the eye of those who manufacture toys and craft supplies and curriculum materials to sell to preschools, making simple, joyful things complicated and complicit in the commodification of everything. A good childhood does not need to be purchased. It comes naturally in the form of things the rest of society has cast-off, like toilet paper tubes and scrap paper and old car tires and bits of wood left over from construction projects. It's such a cliche that it hardly bears repeating, but everyone knows that children have more fun playing with the box the Christmas toy came in than the toy itself.

So we will fly our kites as long as we can, joyfully, and when they are gone we won't weep but rather find some other garbage with which to play because we know there will always be garbage and playing with it, making it new again, is what children have always done.

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