Skipping Rope

POSTED September 10, 2023 IN

We do most of our New Dimensions interviews in a private home in a quiet middle-class neighborhood. The spacious yards are nicely groomed. There are sidewalks and an impressive variety of architecture. As I get out of my car, I notice a young man on the sidewalk next to my car. He’s wearing an electric blue sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head. His black shorts hang loosely down to his knees and his running shoes have a bright orange stripe circling round them just above the sole.

He’s fumbling with a cord he’s just pulled out of his pocket and I assume he’s going to install some ear buds and soon be in his own “programmed” world of a music mix he’s specially designed for his daily run.

To my utter surprise and astonishment, he untangles a rope and proceeds to start jumping. Right there on the sidewalk, he is skipping as the rope whizzes over his head, rhythmically striking the ground with that thunk, thunk, thunking sound we all remember from our childhood. He’s a man in his, seeming, 20’s skipping rope like a young girl.

I’m sure we all can recall gangster movies with the inevitable scene of a grungy boxing gym with men with taut muscles jumping rope. But the surprise of a young man, skipping rope, out in a spring day, in a suburban neighborhood, birds singing, flowers blooming on the border of the sidewalk, and trees just beginning to leaf out, is completely unique in my experience. My brain is having trouble putting it into the right compartment. I love it when I’m wrong and when I’m about to make a serious judgment about how things are, then something unexpected happens. My cynicism is aborted and one more sour conclusion of the day is dismissed and replaced with one of delight and surprise.

I find it immensely hard to not stare. What I really want to do is to stand there and drink in this sight. Watching him for the next hour would not fully satisfy some deep hunger to let this scene penetrate and wake up memories I hold in my bones of childhood joys. I long to gawk at him for as long as he continues but I feel he might misinterpret my interest and fold up his jump rope and stop skipping in embarrassment.

This young man has entered the deep recesses of my being and scooped up the childhood memory of skipping rope with my girlfriends. We’d skip through the verse:

Cinderella, dressed in yellow
Went upstairs to kiss her fellow
Made a mistake
And kissed a snake
How many doctors
Did it take?

And then we’d go into “fasties” with no skipping just jump, jump, jump until we’d trip on the rope.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5. . .

I’m beaming with delight at the memory.
Justine Willis Toms
May 2014
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