Infants, adults like to hold, smell and play with them. As children, we like to play with things, dolls, games and other toys. As adults we play with babies and sometimes grown up toys like cars and large flat screen televisions. Infants smile at us as we pretend to speak a language intended only for them. We think the infants are smiling at us, believing they understand our gibberish; the remarkable thing is that infants are smiling because our facial features are changing and babies find it fascinating.
As toddlers we are shuffled off to the playground for enjoyment; we get great pleasure out of going to the beach or the amusement park, there are so many things to do and see. Our friends are there, and we have an excellent opportunity to “network” as toddlers. The boys are fascinated with frogs and such, and the little girls are not very interested in worms but the swings, oh the swings. Do you remember running to the swings, (one had to run especially if they were empty). As young little girls would all run in sync to the swings, and we all did the same thing, you know what was! We would jump on them, stand up, push and drop ourselves at the waist as we swung back and pushed forward with all our might and when the momentum was just right – – we would drop down in the seat and swing on that swing for the entire 45-second thrill of the moment. That thrill lasted until we mustered up enough energy (which took all of 10 seconds) to do it again, and again and again.
As time goes on we turn into teenagers and the swings and the sliding boards don’t have that appeal and excitement as they once did, we now seek other more “grown up” toys in the playground. The sleepover became a constant – well as long as our parents were in agreement. We would listen to music, comb our hair, have mini fashion shows and experiment with all the makeup we could find. We would roll our hair, braid it and talk about boys, and just have plain ‘ol simple fun all night until we passed out or we heard that crackling voice from downstairs, that demanded we “turn out those lights and go to bed.” Of course, the “darkness” was just as much fun; we would always find a way to continue to engage until dawn.
Those were the good old days when the old LaSalle ran great – a line from the prelude of The Archie Bunker Show. Our interests changed from watching the Electric Company to wanting to be Marsha on the Brady Bunch or who didn’t want to be either Thelma on Good Times or go out with Michael? Me, I just wanted the Evans family to keep the money they found and move into a better neighborhood. Then there it was – The Jeffersons – the family that made it from the ghetto to the Upper East Side – who didn’t want to slap the maid and fire her? Sure our playground(s) was starting to change.
I’m not sure how it happens, I suspect there can be a lot of reasons and rationalizations as to why our interests and desires change from wholesome fun to a desperate need for something more. Was it the guy who broke our hearts, or the father who was never there, perhaps it was that man who raped us on a family trip – and just when we thought it was over, as we are traveling down the road 6 states away from home, on a street we have never walked on – there he is, the rapist in the car adjacent to the one grandpa is driving. The sheer horror, yet there’s no sound, no tears, no outward reaction, but you know, and now he knows it’s you…
Yea maybe that what is was, maybe the pain of that scenario at 15 was just a bit more than any 15-year-old who still likes to watch the Brandy Bunch and fantasize about being Marsha, having a large family a maid and a nice home could bear. She wanted something different so much that one day as she’s getting out of the shower with a towel draped over her head (pretending to a girl with long hair), singing a song from around the way, “I can’t get off my horse …. ” and BAM her brother snatches the towel off her head, and yanks her out of her fantasy show moreover, she’s standing there now, as if now naked, her veil is gone, and she’s forced to face the stark reality that she’s just a black girl in the hood with a brother who has no compassion for her need to be…someone, anybody – else.
She needs another playground (the fantasy playground is not working) one where no one will snatch her fantasy off, no one will know she’s from the hood, no one will question, “Why are you here,” a place where Nobody Knows Her Name and she can flush all the pain down the drain.
The adult playground is filled with all sorts of adrenaline raising toys, there’s gambling, flirting, shopping (for excessive unnecessary items), the hair store, clubs, sex, unavailable men and women, the drive for a better job, the attainment of one more degree, soap operas, unedifying television shows. Speaking of television shows, one can get deeply lost in watching re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy. Every character can be identified with, for example, the relationship between Izzy and Denny Duquette.
Izzy the young intern and Denny the man who requires heart. She falls in love with him and does the unthinkable – she tries to save him. Don’t we all try to save a “him.” Save him from destruction, idleness, from that bad wife or from his trifling girlfriend. So Izzy cuts his LVAD in hopes that the heart will be donated to him – well it does not quite work out that way. Denny does not get the heart; he dies, and she has ruined her career. Before she walks away a Knight in shining armor ( a bad boy) comes and sweeps her away from the pain of that moment – if only for one moment. How many times have we lost ourselves in the playground of the salvation of another person? Perhaps one of the worst toys in the playground, because it rips so much of who we are away that we need a great deal of “good feelings” to replace the void. Perhaps that’s the catalyst for drug abuse.
Could the desire for the playground be as simple as understanding that just as there is right and wrong, good and bad, there are also heavenly spirits and evil spirits that draw us into the playground. If we could come to that understanding, and begin to look for the good and bad in our lives, come to understand how it works, the desire to enter the playground would diminish?
It would appear to me that much like the children’s playground – it closes at dusk, perhaps we should keep that in mind when we opt for toys in the playground.
If it closes at dusk, the toys are not meant to be taken home or played with excessively.
Dedicated to Carolyn S.