We were camping. I was ten or eleven years old. Iâ€™m not sure where we were, but the memory I have attached to this photo is very specific. My dad and I were playing on the grass. Iâ€™d throw my body onto his feet and heâ€™d bring me up over his head. Then Iâ€™d land, and walk myself forward on my hands, giggling, imagining I was in the circus.
It is the only memory I have of playing with my father like this. We played often with words and sometimes with chess, but rarely just the rough and tumble kind of play that kids love best. Somersaulting head over heals, giddy with laughter, climbing up, rolling, wrestling. Both of my parents were intellectuals. To have fun was to read a good book together or maybe play a board game. I have dozens of memories curled up on the couch with one or both of my parents laughing â€˜till my sides ached over a good story, and I recall a handful of times sitting at the table learning strategies for playing chess or scrabble and loving it.
But there is a empty place in my being where I remember my child self longing to play ball with my dad, to ride piggy back, chase, or hide and seek. Iâ€™m not sure if my parents chose to avoid these things purposely, or simply didnâ€™t think of themâ€”neither being drawn to play or sports themselves. What I do know is that every single day I get down on the floor with my son and let him turn my body into a jungle gym. We dance together. We shimmy. He rides on my shoulders and twirls in my arms. He giggles. And his laughter is balm to that child part of myself that clings to the memory in this photo.
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