Monday, June 16, 2008


I should know by now that disappointment will follow when I don’t bring my camera with me on even the smallest trip. Some days I do bring the camera and I see nothing and feel stupid for lugging it all over creation but leaving it behind is a surefire recipe for missing some opportunity. (See: rescued kitten)

This weekend I took over 500 pictures (watch Flickr for the next week if you’re interested, there’s a lot to share.) and I downloaded them to the desktop last night so I still hadn’t tossed the memory card back in the camera and I was just walking the dog and we might not even go that far since she’s still exhausted from a weekend of playing with young Bob so what did it matter, right?

We made it to the park and this morning that was the site of a school field day. Four bright yellow buses had trucked in enough kids to cover the lower (non)playing field. It’s not surprising to see it used that way, our park is used for high school gym classes and birthday parties and hospital health fairs and dog costume contests and a thousand other things. I was surprised that they were busing kids there, though. If you’ve already got them on a bus why not take them to Prospect Park or some other enormous and exciting park? I think containment is an issue but more than that the fact that this school didn’t need a park with amenities, they had imagination and ingenuity and they just wanted to, essentially, take their kids out on the lawn to give them a chance to get their ya yas out.

There was a small group with ropes for double dutch, there was some quiet paperwork being done, a pick up game of football, 3 soccer balls being used by one group that also had a purple Frisbee. It was good clean fun. The best bits, for me, well besides the double dutch, I could have taken pictures of that all day, were the water balloon fight and the sack race.

The water balloon fight was kid-powered. Really polite kid powered. They were filling balloons at the dog fountain and when we walked by they asked if Em needed a drink. No, she’s afraid of running water, thanks though. The great part about this was to watch the whole animal instinct part of it. The balloon-wielders were mostly boys and there was a huge group of girls lying around on blankets talking and the boys approached and basically announced their intentions. It was very red coats lining up to shoot the Patriots. Silly red coats. The girls politely returned that they weren’t playing and please don’t throw the balloons. Yeah, right. The first balloon flew in a glorious full-spraying arc and every girl was up like a jack in the box but they ran as a group retaining their status as one concentrated target. I almost yelled out at them to scatter. They did figure it out eventually but not before I’d gotten my good laugh out of it.

The sack race was part of the faculty organized activities. There was a teacher gathering everyone in a no-nonsense, inevitable way that reminded me of Carla Turk. “I need three people for the sack race!” she projected, striding toward some observers. She didn’t need to say it twice. I’ve only seen sack races where you get in the sack and try not to break your nose before you get to the finish line. This one was a relay. You lined up 25 yards away from someone else, got in your sack, tried not to break your nose, got out of the sack and handed it off so your partner could get in, protect his or her nose and get back to where you started. It didn’t take 2 whole minutes to complete but it had kids and teachers competing together, laughter, one fall, no broken noses and Carla Turk screaming, “[insert name] cheated! You’re cheating!” while laughing so hard I thought she was going to hurt herself. The cheater kept hopping but let go of his sack about three quarters of the way through and kind of scooted it to the line for the switch. His pair didn’t win so I think the cheating was irrelevant, also fascinating to watch. I kind of think his way was harder. A teacher almost won but she caught her sunglasses about half way through as they fell off her shirt where she’d hung them and she was so proud of herself that she slowed down and someone scooted right past her at the end. I couldn’t even pretend to be walking by slowly. I stopped and stared and laughed and kicked my own ass for not having a camera to catch every step of it. I have three working cameras, I couldn’t have grabbed just one. (Add this to the short list of good enough reasons to get an iPhone. I had my phone!)

There are a lot of good reasons to send teenagers to a remote farm and assign them excruciating manual labor until they get all their hormone-fueled foolishness out. God I’d miss their unbridled enthusiasm for whatever, though. The girl who repeatedly threw herself and her huge sneakers into the double dutch fray, the combination of height and distance every sack race participant was reaching out of sheer adrenaline, the gorgeous parabolic patterns of the water balloon prey as they finally dispersed were all so beautiful I wanted to cry because I know they’re not always that happy or having that much fun.

Part of this is fueled by my current reading material, sure, a novel about a school shooting will do that to you but I feel this way all the time. Even when I want to give the stupid boys under my window a good smack upside the head I sort of envy them their ability never to sleep and always to be laughing and talking things out. The pure, raw potential of teenagers is a natural resource we should be protecting the hell out of and, from what I saw today, there’s at least one public school in New York City that’s getting it right. I put up both my thumbs to them and everyone else like them.


  1. Anonymous6:40 PM

    What an awesome post! Your description of the events made me feel like I was right there with you. Thanks! I needed a good laugh.
    I know what you mean about the kids not always being that happy or having that much fun. My work with teens at the residential made that very clear to me. Most of those kids came from the worst of the worst homes and probably didn't do much playing when the were there. What shocked me was those angry and sometimes violent kids would play, play, play when we gave them the opportunity. The 50 foot slip and slide, the game of don't touch the floor, whiffle ball, and even coloring would have them playing and laughing with delight. It was so good to see them just be carefree kids.
    Thanks again, you totally lifted my mood!

  2. Happy to help! I think you would have had a blast with this group.

  3. I love Jodi's books. I have read so many. This one is on my shelf to read...
    I wish for time so I can go and view the world through your eyes.
    You are a great photographer Kizz.
    Just one of the many, many talents you have.