Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Saturday Snapshot #8: The enormous hopscotch

     Thursday was a grim day for our nation. Another grim day. The testimony of Christine Blasey Ford in the morning, composed yet tremulous, laying out her accusations of assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Then, in the afternoon, his angry, self-pitying response. As if the aspirations of women in America were running full bore into the brick wall of entrenched patriarchal power. 
     When the dust cleared, the wall was still there. Not a scratch on it.
      About 5 p.m. I had had enough, and took the dog for a walk, running into a neighbor, walking her dog.  We strolled our neighborhood, exchanging our bewildered assessment of it all. 
      A few blocks away, we passed a pair of girls. Maybe 10. I didn't know them. "Cute dog" one of them said, and I glanced at her—freckles—smiled and thanked her. My neighbor and I stepping smoothly to the grass, so as not to trample on what they were drawing with colored chalk.
      What they had created, I saw the next morning, was an enormous hopscotch. Not the simple 8- or 10-box hopscotches typical of schoolyards, but an epic, 90 square masterpiece that went on forever, angling around the corner, taking up the better part of a block. I approached it from the reverse side, starting at 90, with radiant rays celebrating its completion. Every 10th numbers paused for the same spray of triumph. Around the corner, the creators had left their portraits, a sort of signature to the work. 
     I took the liberty of photographing the hopscotch, concerned about intrusion, but deciding the expectations of privacy on a public sidewalk are not great. Besides, it couldn't really be photographed properly: too big, too expansive for documentation. I walked away, thinking about my younger boy, and his bedroom-filling forts, constructed of yarn and blankets, requiring hours of solitary construction, solemn events of high importance, somehow, achievements that had to be respected. I wondered whether the enormous hopscotch would become a cherished part of their childhood, something the two girls would think of in future years with awe. Remember when we....?
    I didn't think about it again until Friday afternoon, when I went to walk the dog. It was raining, a cold, autumnal rain, and we didn't go as far as the hopscotch, which I imagined was being washed away at that very moment.
      The rain made me glad I had photographed the enormous hopscotch during its brief existence. Less than a day. I don't know why, but the elaborate artwork encouraged me, as a kind of counterpoint to the raw political and emotional ugliness unfolding in Washington. The unpretentious ambition of the thing. The physical challenge—of course the girls must have tried to hop it, tried to make it all the way to the end, 90 squares without a misplaced step, which had to be very difficult. The creativity of its conception, the daring, the brushing aside of accepted boundaries. Imagine what people could accomplish, girls and boys, men and women, if only society didn't constraint them the way it does, crush them down with limits,  pressing with its weight of expectation, tradition, the density of lies, of men imposing their power, their strength, their fragile egos and the untruths needed to prop up those egos, to keep them from sagging under their own enormity. 
     Who knows what the future holds, and how it will look back on our sorry time? There are elderly ladies alive today born when women could not vote. Where will these girls go and how will they remember this era, so troubling to live through? The sexism and repression of this country are not relegated to history. These regressive forces are strong, here and now. We saw the anger in Kavanaugh's aggrieved outpouring. It was not the complaint of an innocent man, but the whine of the entitled, frustrated to see his smooth glide interrupted by people who aren't supposed to matter. The forces that would drive us back today control the government, pushing their program of revanchism, a return to the bad old days. Remember what this is all about: taking away self-determination from women. Finding a man who will help strip women of their rights, help hobble these girls, limit their possibilities, even before they've had a chance to skip off their block and into the wide world.
    The old ways are winning. At the moment. But they have not won. The stakes, maybe not so clear before, are becoming ever clearer. Or should be. Meanwhile, the young are coming up, forming their worlds, thinking for themselves, pushing limits, unbroken. As always, they will see how things are done, will startle at the smallness of our world, its meanness and restriction, and will imagine something larger, will seek to manifest themselves in daring and creative ways. Big, bold, ways. They will demand something different. Something better than what we settle for now. 


  1. This was absolutely wonderful.
    This is Sun-Times worthy material. Something that this city - this country - should read right now for bringing some purposeful and slightly hopeful reflection to our political and social madness.

  2. Nicely done. A disquisition on hopscotch as a diversion, but not quite, from the dispiriting testimony that displaced even the daytime Soaps. I suppose it's not a fit topic for humor, but suggestions that the judge might have behaved badly during his college days did bring to mind a famous wisecrack. Dorothy Parker would not have been surprised, having written, "If all the young ladies who attended the Yale senior prom were laid end to end I wouldn't be a bit surprised.


  3. Strong writing, strong sentiments. Come November, strong message to the other side. Vote if it's the last thing you do!

  4. One of your best, and a reminder that it should be the birthright of every child to grow up in a neighborhood with sidewalks.

  5. The image startled me, as the blue house and the gray fence look very much like my own. But after a quarter-century on this corner, it occurs to me that I have never seen a hopscotch anywhere. I never see or hear children playing, either. If people have kids, they keep them hidden away. There are three young brothers across the street, and not once in the last five years have I ever seen them outside in their yard, or even on their deck.

    It's not just because kids are addicted to their electronic devices, it's the prevalence of so much parental fear. The same fear, of the maniac in the bushes, that also gave us the maniac in the White House...and the fearmongering culture we find ourselves in today. The last time I heard and saw any youngsters was on the night of the Great Blackout of August, 2003. For one night, it was like the summer evenings of my playing catch, riding bikes, and hanging out on the corner because they had been forced out of their powerless houses. The electricity came back the next day. I haven't seen any kids since.

  6. A Palestinian father I knew scoffed at my remarks about saving for her college fund: ignorant I was that he had determined a more limited future for his beautiful daughter. Kavanaugh's crowd shared similarly narrow visions for a woman's role in life, and their defenders put to peril the ambitions of your street artists. That they could be the next Marie Curie, Michelle Robinson Obama, or Eunice Kennedy Shriver seems to escape the narrow minded bigots championed by the trumpistas.

  7. Just now catching up and finally got to this one. Please keep on writing. You really do provide an antidote some of the poison in our air. Thanks.

  8. Nice one: don't know how I missed this last year.


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