I loved the jungle gym. The gray steel bars rose up creating a structure that looked like a castle.
I was fascinated by it, but I never climbed it The bars were too slippery, dripping with morning dew, and the gaps between each rung were too big. Reaching up to climb meant letting go of a bar just long enough to give me a queasy feeling that would run from my fingertips to my toes. So, I spent my time on the ground, watching other kids climb.
One day, I had a different idea.
No one was around. I walked toward the jungle gym. My red tennis shoes sunk into the wet sand as I stepped toward the empty structure. I grabbed the bar at chest level, and put my foot on the rung below. With one foot on the ground, I rubbed my shoe back and forth on the metal bar. Maybe this isn’t a good idea, I thought, and I took my foot off the bar. I leaned in and saw on the other side, James White reaching up and starting to climb. Snack time must be over.
Next thing I remember, I was at the top, facing James.
We had reached the top at the same time.
Memory is a strange thing. What we remember. What we don’t. How we remember and why. This is one of my earliest memories I dredged up for the memoir unit I’m writing with my students. When I read this to them, most thought I conquered my fear of heights. But I know it wasn’t that.
I still have a fear of heights. Rollercoaster are a no go. When I worked on the 40th floor of an office building, I had difficulty being near the windows.
I was a cautious kid. What my four-year old self did that day was decidedly out of character. Maybe that’s why I remember. It was so stunningly not me.
14 thoughts on “SOLC#22 – day 7, what we remember”
It is fascinating when we think about what we remember and what we do not. Do you have other memories of the gym? What is jungle gym?
I wish I had included a picture… in fact let me add one!
Memory is a strange thing. What we remember. What we don’t. How we remember and why.
I loved these lines. They really made me pause and think. What a great memoir. I was picturing it right along side you.
It’s a worthwhile exercise, digging into memory, just to reflect on what you find.
Your description is so clear that it is such a surprise for the reader, too that you meet James White at the top! I wonder what other memories you have where a James-White-Like moment happened? You may be afraid of heights, but not of a competition! Thanks for sharing. I also like your reflection on memoir. It is odd the parts of things we remember.
I remember listening to Niki Grimes talk about how she had to do research for her memoir. That was such an eye opener for me. I’d be willing to bet James would have a different memory!
Jungle gyms were scary when one was young. I agree it is eye-opening to realize what we do remember and why.
And for whatever reason you’ll never forget it! You sparked a memory in me of climbing across the tops of the monkey bars instead of swinging. My dad said it was ok! Thanks for sharing; I have a hard time thinking of stories to write with my students for narrative.
I’m grateful for my students to help me remember those moments!
Great memoir moment to share with your students and us. I remember being afraid of the monkey bars. It is strange what we remember. I have a distinct memory of one of those crazy merry-go-rounds on the playground. Maybe I can mine it for a slice.
I loved this! Your word choice was awesome, I totally felt like I was standing right beside you. It is amazing how detailed that memory was for you. I was just talking to some of my coworkers the other day about their earliest memory. My earliest memory was from kindergarten and it is such a boring memory about being asked to recite my address. HAHA. I must have been nervous to do so if I remember that so well.
I am with you on the rollercoasters and windows in tall buildings – “no go”. I love how you build the memory then step aside and comment on it. Beautiful writing.
As I read your jungle gym description – the gray steel bars, the gaps between rungs too big – it took me back to the school playground of my childhood. I was also a cautious child (ok I still am cautious!). I was so surprised when you met James at the top. I never made it up there…though I did venture off the ground. Also, I love your red tennis shoes and wet sand detail!
They were the Ked’s tennis shoes. I loved them!