The other day, on a walk around Chambers Bay Golf Course, I came past the playground and pondered with how much love it has been set up. There were quite a few kids playing there, not all of them physically distancing; but in one corner, on a swing, sat a little girl all by herself, seemingly all self-content in twisting the swing and enjoying the circular ride. It somehow reminded me of my own childhood and made me ponder what it was about MY playground preferences back then.
At my kindergarten, some architect had come up with a so-called snail house concrete construction. It was about double my height, and at one point in the spiral, the architect had put round holes to climb to the top. It looked just gray and totally dreary. From today’s perspective, I think that architect must have had a secretly sadistic streak in him. Imagine a child climb up that thing (and we did) and fall down (which, somehow, we didn’t)! Or what a perfect bullying device it was, as the center had no outlet, and other kids could hold one literally hostage in there. There were some mean little girls who did this – they walked around, calling “who wants chocolate?” (and who didn’t?!), then lured their victim into the spiral center, and told the kid they’d never let it out again. It happened to me once. At another time I went in with a little friend of mine, and she showered me with jewels. When I came home and I showed my mother the treasure with gleaming eyes, she found that every bit was the real deal! My little friend had ransacked her mother’s jewelry box. Of course, I had to return the pile. The concrete spiral certainly had me wary after that. It was a place where no good things happened.
Another playground peeve to me was the seesaw. It was an equipment that always seemed to be on the bullies’ side. They could have you sit up in the air for seeming ages, then just jump off and let you down the hard way. It was never a tool of finding a balance. Merry-go-rounds? To a point they were fun, unless a bully made you go faster and faster by pushing it and not being on the ride themselves. I remember one kid falling off such a device and come away with a hole in the head. Not sure whether you can find any of such playground equipment anywhere anymore. Kids back in the day certainly had to be somewhat tough. How often did I come away with scrapes and splinters from the playground?! We even had something called “adventure playground”, where you went with a hammer and nails and built your own fort – well, I think that was supervised by adults, at least.
My all-time favorite equipment was a horizontal high bar, from which I could let myself dangle, knees hooked over the bar, watching the world from an upside-down angle. Quite intriguing. And peaceful, as I did it all by myself. And swings. They came pretty close to flying, and it was me who could decide how high I wanted to go up (high!). I could even feel these little butterflies in my tummy sometimes. And I could invite a friend to share the seat. Swinging in twos was quite some fun.
The playground in front of the house in which I grew up was little cared for. It was a big sandpit (which was loved by all the cats in the neighborhood) with some climbing equipment and formerly mentioned high bar. There was a point early in my childhood when it became less and less luring. Though the equipment actually was repainted at one point. They took down the seesaw which had been broken by some wild abuse, and never replaced it again. A swing would have made all the difference for me.