Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Building Breakable Barriers

I noted that our parks and recreation department should take a cue from the Brits. Like so many parks we encountered on our trip, Grovesnor Park had free ping pong tables,, giant chess sets, free yoga classes and a stage where a band was setting up for a free afternoon performance. My son and husband became engrossed in a competitive ping-pong match, while my daughter curiously explored some foam blocks. Before she and I finished building a wall, other children joined in to knock it down. Soon everyone had a different idea of what to build: A fort, a stage, a staircase. They took turns trying different ideas. They helped each other create their visions and than shared in the pay off, total destruction!

Brainstorm,.Build, Breakdown, Repeat. They played for an hour with those foam blocks, just some simple yellow blocks. There were many days this summer when an hour seemed like an eternity to my bored kids and I would have paid big money for an hour to myself. I need these blocks, I thought, already reaching for my phone to Google where I could buy some.

“Excuse me.” A little dark haired girl about my daughter’s age interrupted me. “Is your daughter Muslim?” She asked.

My daughter has white blonde hair and blue eyes. “No, she’s not,” I told her and smiled.

“Oh, she is Christian?” the girl’s brown eyes widened as the wheels visibly turned in her head. She ran back to join the game.  

My immediate reaction was relief that I hadn’t turned into a provincial, paranoid tourist. Even the children knew about the division, and probably sensed the unease. But in this park, playmates simply looked like playmates.  Inside the castle they were building together, their laughter was indistinguishable from one another. They were the same.

When we finally left, the girl joined her mother, who was covered in a veil and burqa. Just past the park gates, guards with machine guns paced. We returned home a week later to find similar “us-versus them” news headlines about racial unrest and police shootings.

Maybe I should buy those blocks. Alot of blocks.

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