Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Pausing To Reflect

I knew that we were going to be spreading a new layer of wood chips over the surface of our junkyard playground at some point this summer, but it surprised me when I arrived at school yesterday. My first emotion was one of disappointment, because while it does freshen the place up, giving it a pleasing scent of cedar, I knew that it had also buried a lot of our smaller bits and baubles, things that might not re-surface for months, if ever. On second blush, however, I remembered that the kids have been kicking up quite a cloud of unpleasant dust here in the dog days, something with which this new layer of chips would definitely help.

As the children arrived they likewise had mixed feelings about the changes to their space. One boy hopped on a swing and immediately started bawling, "The swings are too low now! They're for little kids and I'm a big kid!" And he was right, the thick layer of chips under the swings left precious little room for his legs to hang. After his initial reaction, however, he got to work digging out a new hole deep enough to accommodate a full pumping of the legs.

Meanwhile, another group joyfully grabbed shovels and immediately began a digging project, searching for the bare earth below.

But, over all, the new surface was simply remarked upon, then forgotten as the kids settled into the rhythm of their play.

After awhile, I began to hear the diggers discussing the prospect of a hole that penetrated to the center of the earth, perhaps even going all the way through to the other side. The older boy on the swing overheard them and said in a voice of authority, "You better not dig too deep because then you might get to the lava and it will erupt on us."

The diggers paused to reflect on that, then decided amongst themselves that this was exactly what they were going to do, dig to the molten core to release the lava. They dug out a circle of bare dirt, informing one and all to be careful because if they fell in they would be "burned up."

Before long a team of ninja fighters roved into the area, posing fiercely, boasting of their powers, and thereby (from what I could tell) defeating bad guys. The diggers paused to reflect on that, then decided amongst themselves that their pools of lava (by now they had several) were actually bad guy traps. They informed me that as a good guy, I was immune to the lava, and no longer needed to worry about falling in. The lava would only burn bad guys.

It was around this time that a loud wail went up on the other side of the swing set, a boy suddenly bursting into tears as if injured. As I approached, the crying boy pointed at another boy who was standing some distance away, "He hit me!" At this, the accused, behaving very much like a guilty party, took off for a distant corner of the playground. As I consoled the crying boy, I learned that he hadn't actually been hit, but rather had been told that he was going to be hit "a lot of times" and it had, naturally, frightened him. I asked, "What can he do to make you feel better," to which he replied, "I don't think he'll tell me he's sorry." I asked, "Would that make you feel better?" When he answered that it would, I suggested that we at least talk to him.

By now the tears had ended. He took my hand as we started down the hill, looking for his nemesis, but didn't immediately spy him. I said, "It's like he disappeared," to which the boy replied, "Maybe he's a ghost," a joke that let me know he was no longer harboring a grudge. We made spooky ghost noises together for a minute, then he released my hand and returned to his play.

Back at the bad guy lava traps, I was informed that they had, in my absence, trapped several bad guys who had hit people "a lot of times."

Not long after that, the boy who had earlier been crying was running toward us, his face flushed with joy. He was being chased by the boy who had threatened to hit him a lot of times. "Help! Help! I'm being chased by a ghost!" And behind him, the ghost wailed and moaned in mock ghostly misery. They had obviously made amends, racing away in their game of chase.

The diggers paused to reflect on that, then decided amongst themselves that their bad buy traps were actually ghost traps. "The ghosts fall into the lava and get dead."

The older boy on the swing informed them that ghosts were already dead.

The diggers reflected on that, then decided that their lava traps made the ghosts "extra dead." Then they went back to their project of digging in the new wood chips.

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