Recently at a session we have been bringing a thick heavy rope every week, usually used for making a swing between two trees by throwing, climbing, and tying.
Towards the end of the session, just before it’s time to leave, the playworkers prepared to take down the rope, untying the knots to let it fall from the tree. This time it was met with a “No! It’s OUR rope! You can’t take it.” After explaining that we couldn’t leave the rope up after we left, and that PATH didn’t have an endless supply of ropes, and we wanted to be able to bring it again next time, the group split into two sides: those who supported us taking the rope, and pleaded that we come back, and those who wanted possession of the rope for themselves. The mood of the session had suddenly changed: this was serious. One side seized one end of the rope and held it to the tree, stopping us from taking it down. The other group huddled around the playworkers, and everyone was drawn into the energy of a tug of war, with gusto.
Eventually the rope was brought down from the tree. The non-playworker side was stronger, and the rope was taken into their possession and carried off ceremoniously above the heads of the taller folk, and paraded around the blocks of estate with shouts of pride and taunts of victory. Possession of the rope had well and truly happened, and a feeling that they had earned it was felt, even by the playworkers, who really would have liked to have won the rope themselves. Bewildered, we were left with the non-victorious group, who were pleading that we come back next week. We told them we would come back, but we wouldn’t bring any stuff.
“We will bring things from our houses!” One girl said. “Great idea” we said, and off we went wondering about the fate of the rope.
We returned the following week to find the rope up, but no one playing on it at first. A few children emerged. “You’re not going to take the rope away, we will stop you.” The playworkers explained calmly (and with completely false confidence) that they would indeed have to take the rope away, so that the rope could be brought back next time, and wouldn’t be cut down and destroyed by caretakers when a resident complained about it. “You won’t bring it back, you’ll take it down and never come back”. The playworkers promised that they would bring it back. At the end of the session there was an attempt to reenact the tug of war of the previous week, but with fewer children, and without the brute strength of the taller ones or the smell of war in the air, the playworkers managed to pack the rope away quite easily.
The third week we brought back the rope as promised, and were met with “You can keep your rope today – we don’t want it! The caretaker said he’s going to make us a swing”. Miraculously, all the tension about possession of the rope had dissolved, and since then we have been allowed to bring the rope and take it away each session without any objections.
January 21, 2010
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