When did I lose my fearlessness?
This question came to mind while spending the day with my 5-year-old nephew earlier this week. Over the course of those 24 hours, I found myself saying things like, “Don’t do that!” or “Be careful!” or “Slow down, you’re gonna to get hurt!”
Truth is, I once did all the things that he was doing—and more.
The afternoon I came home from school with holes in the toes of my brand new Sears & Roebuck Winner II sneakers, I was not much older than my nephew is now. The spunkier kids, (mostly boys), and I had whipped the merry-go-round into high-speed mode before hanging by our hands as our legs and feet flew out behind us. For a few brief moments, we were super heroes, weightless in the wind and completely exhilarated.
“Slow down, slow down!” the rotund, red-faced playground aide had hollered and wagged her finger. “Someone is going to get hurt again!” (Yes, again. The week before, Jay had lost his grip, flown off, and rolled underneath. It had taken the remainder of recess for the grown-ups to carefully extract the bruised and scraped boy from the rusty underbelly of the merry-go-round.)
On that Winner II day, the merry-go-road slowed at the playground aide’s command, but I failed to jump off before gravity did its worst. My new blue and white sneakers, doubling as brakes, dragged and scraped the asphalt. When I got home, the jig was up, and I was banned from further flying. For the rest of the school year, my big toes peeked through the holes in my Winner II’s as reminders of those glorious moments of reckless flight.
“Aunt Lolly, look at me!” my nephew called, bringing me back to the present.
I turned toward the swings and nearly had a heart attack. He was swinging so high that the chains were losing their tension at the top.
“Not so high!” I called. He giggled, enjoying his own moments of reckless glory. I took a deep breath and prayed that he wouldn’t get hurt. Truth is, at that age I was not only swinging that high, I was perfecting my dismount—sometimes landing forward and other times executing a backward somersault.
A part of me wanted to show my nephew some of my old playground tricks. The fearful—sensible? grown-up?—side of me refrained.