Thursday, 21 May 2015

"It's going to rain" - Reflections from a play day in Australia

He was hesitant to join in. He was a little bigger than all the other kids and didn't want to intrude on anyone else's play. But he was hovering on the periphery as much as us playworkers were, so I knew he wanted a way in. So I waited.

I had constructed a swing like hammock with a long piece of cloth on the only big tree in our play space. It was by the road so I made a point in staying road side and offered up assistance with swinging and spinning the gathered children. They giggled and screamed as they span round and round.

There was a queue, but it was way too hot to stop and wait in the sun, so I made up nicknames for the children, to make them laugh, and to shout them back later. There was Multicolour Girl, Princess Dress, White T-Shirt Boy and Stripey Boy. It was way to warm to begin to remember names.

He observed from a closer spot. Still not really interacting with anyone, but quietly listening and watching. There was suddenly less children. The sun had been replaced by grey clouds and the air had a thick soupy quality. He headed slowly towards me as I did an obvious weight check in the hammock briefly to assure him, just as I had done for every other child.

"Will you help me to swing?"

"Of course"

I helped him into the hammock swing. It took some pushing and shoving, but I didn't make a big deal of it: every kid had struggled. He was in, and looked peaceful. I pushed the swing gently for a little while.

"Did you come on a plane?"

"Yes. Two planes actually."

"I flew on a plane once. A long time ago."

"Where did you fly from?"

"South Africa. I was very small."

"Have you been back since?"

He shakes his head and looks sad. "I don't remember it very much."

"One day you can go back. You can get on another plane."

"Maybe."

He sits quietly in the hammock, and I keep swinging. Above, the clouds gather and look angry.

"Do you think it's going to rain?"

He looks at me with very certain eyes and says "It's going to to rain."

Moments later, I feel a few fat drops of water. I help him get out of the hammock and together we pull it out of the tree. He turns and makes eye contact, and then disappears, back into the periphery.

And then it rained.

The play site, just before we left. It rained hard for 30 minutes, complete with electrical storm which left the whole city with no power for 2 days. It was the hottest 2 days of my life, but I'm so glad that I got this play moment in before all that crazy started.

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