How the kids ate the playground


Recently someone told me “It is terrible to watch people deteriorate.”

There was a time in my life, as in everyone’s life I’m sure, when I didn’t know a single person that died, nobody living with a terminal illness.  I was young and as it pertains to young age I thought that the world is forever.  That death is somewhere in the distant future for all of us – young or old.  I also believed that beauty lasts forever because it is the ultimate form of being.

The following story takes an unexpected turn. It is about the ephemeral nature of life and joy.  It is about appreciation of life and joy;

One day, a few years ago, I had walked through the crepe myrtles you see on the picture above. I stopped to look at the kids’ playground that you can make out at the end of that concrete walk way. There had been a new turf installed.  Recycled rubber chips – cove bases, floor tiles, rubber transitions had been chopped up, sifted by size, and sterilized.  The material was delivered in big bags almost as tall as a human. It was spread on the playground replacing the wood mulch that held water and mold, fell apart over one season, and needed annual replacement.  This new rubber chip playground soil seemed to be a good idea – clean, soft, and did not allow moisture to linger.

As I was standing there looking at the colorful chips a group of kids spilled out a door and flooded the playground.  They had not seen the new rubber mulch.  Some of them stopped and looked at it, then picked up a piece or two and held it close to their eyes.  That made me smile – I remember the times when I was a kid and little things fascinated me.

As I was watching the kids and thinking of my childhood I realized what was about to happen. The next step was inevitable.  A kid can, and it will, put anything to the ultimate test – a bite.  Almost simultaneously with my thoughts I saw a kid or two make the signature move – hand going toward the mouth, a rubber chip held like a sandwich.

The women that were watching the kids started screaming. That was enough for some of the kids to drop the chips and for others to just hold them between their teeth.  I knew what will be next: Secret playground rubber chip chewing.


I walked away laughing and entered the main building of the church.  What had just happened was so funny that I had to share it!  The best two people to hear the story were the two women that worked in the front office.  I often hung there and shot the breeze with them while they were working. These were wonderful moments of casual conversation and the dialogue was relaxed and enjoyable every time. We often told funny stories.  So I headed to the front office with a real gem of a story.

Here the story full of sun and kids laughter ends.  Another one begins.  It’s is about a tragedy;

As I walked into the office, before I even saw the two ladies working there, something changed.  With the three last steps taking me through the door I entered a completely different energy field. One of vacuum, silence, loss of words.

In the middle of the room Gabby was sitting on a chair.  Jodie was standing by her looking down at the floor in front of Gabby.  There was no need for anything to be said.  I had now become part of something very serious.

Somehow, with very few words, Jodie told me that Gabby’s husband’s brother had passed away unexpectedly.  He was about 35.  Returned home after work, laid down on the couch. Half an hour later he was gone his way.  Gabby, one of the most radiant and happy creatures I have ever known was sobbing.  It was obvious that she could not process the news.  As it with all of us in the first moments of extreme events we do not believe the reality.  It needs time to sink in.  It is a moment of transitioning from one state to another.  We are not supposed to feel these moments. But at times it is all happening as if in a dream and we are part of it. Unable to awake and shake it off we fall to the ground, or look around as if checking if reality is still there.  Or we slump down on a chair like Gabby in that moment.

So here it was – I carried a funny story into the building.  In a matter of seconds that story was covered by a cloud.  It made you evaluate many things in a very short moment.  It made you vulnerable and you lost your speech.

I walked back outside.  The kids had left the playground.

It was a beautiful sunny day.  I looked up to the sky.


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