I have reached the age where scrolling down to select the year I was born on an online dropbox feels a bit like spinning the big wheel on the Wheel of Fortune. Pull down hard and watch ‘er go! Nonetheless, I don’t mind getting older overall. The alternative seems grim. I’ll take aging. I also suffer from high self-esteem. I think I’m delightful and feel pretty great about myself.

Then I sit around with young people for a minute too long and remember that if I am not older than dirt, then at the very least, I am as old as blacktop playgrounds.

I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s.  I know it sounds a cliche but we — or perhaps our parents — are a tougher breed. We had towering metal jungle gyms installed over rock-hard blacktop. Shiny metal slides that rose skyward. They were searingly hot in summer and icy in winter. Our pump swings had heavy iron handlebars to really get going for “under ducks.” The real piece de resistance was giant rubber tires stacked on the ground to climb in for that extra hint of malaria.

I loved it all. As a recall, despite being a bona dude sissy I rarely felt pain and even things that should have hurt were barely an inconvenience.

Fast forward to now. The other day I took a nap on the sofa, slept wrong and woke up with a stiff neck that lasted a week. I really could have used medical intervention. This was a real comeuppance to someone who spent years cheerfully carrying actual playground gravel embedded in my knee. I just no longer can do the things I used to with impunity.

There was a time I was thrilled to rope swing, climb trees, build forts, swing so high on my swing, the bottoms would tilt up then jump out of my seat and see who landed the furthest away. Bonus points for a tuck and roll.

I could stay up late at a sleepover, babysit for a passel of kids all day long, hit the movies, swing by the dairy bar with friends for a junk food dinner and have the energy to roller skate for hours after. The only recharge I needed was tanning in the backyard, using baby oil and lemon juice in my hair to lighten it. I swear I never felt tired. I certainly never limped for a week because I pulled something in my leg while doing laundry.

I had a banana seat bike with the huge curved handlebars and streamers and a plastic basket with daisies (of course) and still had the nerve to think I was tough (I wasn’t).

We stayed up late playing freeze tag, mother may I and ghost in the graveyard. Who remembers flashlight tag? Now I like to be in bed no later than 9:30 pm although I prefer 9 p.m. to be on the safe side.

I have not visited a playground during recess in years. If they took away Red Rover I’m going to revolt. Man, that game was awesome! You bonded with an iron fist grip among teammates to clothesline the opponents. Good times.

Dodgeball was another sure-fire winner. Who doesn’t recall the stinging smack of a rubber ball on skin? Now if I stub my toe on a dog toy I’m limping for a week.


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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.



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