By: Garry Poree
The cool evening brought a condensed morning dew, clinging to the grass and cobwebs in the schoolyard. As the sun began to rise, boasting her might from the horizon, the moisture started to evaporate. The pendulum had swung on the spring equinox and a reminder of long, glorious days to come. There were tulips, magnolias and azaleas drawn to the sunlight and the aromas brought a renewed enthusiasm to one’s gait while the birds and squirrels danced from tree to tree with similar gusto. With the rising sun looming, the early morning breeze had tapered and the air was now still. But a storm was about to gather force, not in a weathered sense but with a furore of noise pollution. Fun filled proportions that would last only for a few moments, but leave an indelible impression with me.
The swings and roundabouts were motionless. It was the calm before the storm, I was brewing with anticipation. I sat on a bench across the road from the schoolyard so that I wouldn’t look suspicious or be misinterpreted by school authorities. Just a bystander wanting to watch the innocence of youth. My vantage point was more than adequate to watch the playful chaos that was about to unfold. It was 9:58, I had arrived just in time………. Fifteen minutes of playtime strictly enforced by the sound of a loud, echoing bell as predictable as a tightly wound clock calibrated to the precision of the galaxy. These little people would demonstrate agility skills with an energy, enthusiasm and naivety through the imagination of a child. The bell sounded, it was 10am and the door burst open like the sound of a cannonball celebrating the absence of unarmed books and pencils. The bundles of joy dispersed into the playground with smiling faces and pent up energy. The noise of screaming children and laughter reverberated to me from across the street making me reminisce of days gone by when my leg would twitch under my school desk with rapid spasms as I eagerly awaited the bell to ring. When it came to recess, I was the master of my own domain.
The children were young. Anywhere from 5-10 would be my guess. Young enough to still interact with one another, face to face, an art that was becoming lost amongst their older siblings. The dichotomy on how the children played varied. The toddlers gravitated towards the slides, seesaws and swings with acrobatic style and with little fear of injury, closely chaperoned by one or two teachers in the vicinity who would occasionally have to reign an infant from straying too far. And some of the older children were seen playing basketball and soccer, honing athletic ability and pretending to be their favourite sports idol with commentary. Some were playful in different ways, young boys chasing girls, a sign of years to come and their shrilling screams and laughter could be heard from afar. Others mingled in groups, playfully basking in the fresh air. All the sounds were deafening, all wanting to be heard and noticed. But the great connective and common factor was that the essence of a child is in play. Children do not move in a straight line so neither should their creative mind. To a child, play is a time to learn, discover and launch in an environment sometimes filled with manipulation but never during these moments. It is a space for make believe giving them an endless imagination and one of repeated motions that enables better coordination. Learning is in their actions where the creativity has purpose and a free expression to what lies in a child’s soul. Watching children enjoy is like watching them write, direct and act in their own movie script. Only a screaming child knows how to navigate a playground and they do so with poetry in motion.To see determined little faces with rosy cheeks inspired me and it is important to let them play in the moment for a few precious minutes before filling their minds again with academia.These playgrounds are an integral part of society that are sadly becoming lost in the inner big cities. And as quick as the blink of an eye and before I had finished my morning coffee, the bell rang again and the children would scurry, funnelling into a lineup for headcount. Governed by their teachers, before making their way to the corridor to rehydrate themselves at the drinking fountain and then returning to the classrooms. The yard now had a deafening silence leaving me speechless to the din I had just witnessed, but certainly not without thought.
It was fifteen minutes of watching a well controlled frenzy that left me uplifted and enthused. I had stepped into my own Tardis so to speak. That took me back in time to being a kid again, when I was playing in the schoolyard, caked in mud and sweat. I was taught a lot from watching today’s event. I learned to wonder and let my mind wander back to my own youth. I learned to accept possibility with believe that we can be better as grown ups. I discovered more in watching 15 minutes of play than sometimes in 15 minutes of adult conversation. Personally, I will continue to enjoy “playing” because if I stop, I will feel old and I have no plan on doing that anytime soon. Call me Peter Pan if you like and I will take it as a compliment. “Learn to listen to the youth of today and you will remain youthful forevermore.” (A friend of mine once told me that and it stayed with me.) I was now ready to enter my adult work day with positive vibes so I picked up my briefcase and headed for the office. I didn’t share my experience with anyone until now. I don’t know when I will be back, perhaps never but it was a nice reminder not to take life too seriously. Watching the joy and energy of children in their element reminded me of that. So when you start to doubt, don’t, because the child in you will save you. Sometimes going back to one’s roots when life had no stress can make for a better day. At least it did for me on this occasion…….