Thursday, 5 January 2012

Safety First!

A few months ago, as part of my work with the RespectED Program (within the Canadian Red Cross) I took a multi-day course on child abuse and neglect.  Given the heavy nature of the material, the instructor had us start by thinking about a place where we feel safe, in case we needed to take a mental break from the material.  We were handed pieces of coloured construction paper and asked to draw our 'safe place' using coloured pencils.

Now for the record, I feel a bit ridiculous when doing exercises like this and yet, I almost always end up finding them helpful once I'm underway, and, naturally they're a great source of material for self-reflection.  So I thought about it and my safe place is from my childhood, when I'd go to my friend Jo and Sue's place and play.  Specifically, I drew a picture of their big blue rectangular in-ground trampoline.

When we were done, the instructor invited us to explain what we'd drawn.

I said that my safe place was Jo and Sue's trampoline.

I went on to explain that because it was the only trampoline in the neighborhood (possibly in town) lots of kids would come over and jump on it.  And we would take turns, two of us going into the crawl space under the trampoline.  Then we'd poke our heads up against the underside of the trampoline, while the kids up top would try to jump on our heads.  Of course, we'd try not to get jumped on so we wouldn't have to go to the hospital.  That was how you won.

And I went on to explain that sometimes on summer nights, older boys from town would sit by the edge of the trampoline with their lighters and try to light our nighties on fire while we were jumping.  We wore a lot of polyester in those days so you had to be careful.

And, while I hadn't drawn it, there was also the tire swing over by the shed.  It was two heavy car tires suspended on thick chains from a metal bar ten or fifteen feet up - the bar was suspended between two telephone poles.  There was a sturdy grey plank inserted in the tires and that was the seat - we could sit four of us across, sometimes five.

We'd swing, trying to get as high as we could, and it was only a matter of time until someone fell off.  If this happened, it was better to just lie there, because if you sat up you'd get knocked out by the swing coming back down; it was a heavy swing and it's not as though we had any way to stop it.

Another thing we liked to do was twist the swing 'round until it was wound so tight it was high off the ground.  I'm not sure how this worked exactly, but in the untwisting, usually one end would work its way out of the tires longer than the other end and it would catch one of the poles and the swing would jerk to a complete stop.  Of course, if you were on the swing, you'd keep going.

And I remember one time Jo and Sue's dad bent an aluminum lawn chair leg into a triangle and hung it above the plank on another thick chain.  Sue was the first to climb up and hang upside down off that triangle before the chair leg could take no more and released her head-first onto the plank below.  I remember watching and thinking, "boy, she sure did fall fast."  And then, "chair legs aren't very strong."

At this point, I realized I'd gone on for quite some time talking about my safe place so I thought I probably shouldn't mention the time I fell backwards into the empty hole left by the trampoline when it was taken out of the ground for winter.

God I loved that trampoline.  If I ever have kids, I hope they have memories like that to cherish.



  1. Oh Desi, you make us sound so sketchy. I believe there was only 1 recorded broken bone. The "alleged" concussions and lacerations were all fiction. :)

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