from an unfamiliar photo sent by a friend

See that photo there, in the upper left? Of course you don’t. That’s because there is a tiny mutant rebel army wielding swords and running amok in the walls of this blog, much as tiny mice used to run amok in the walls of the very old house in which I grew up, and they have decided to chop out all the photos that once could be viewed here.

The tiny mutant rebel army soldiers also stand guard at the gate of New Photo Uploads, denying permission to every new photo I try to include. So you shall have to use your imagination when you look at the invisible photo to the upper left, and trust me when I tell you that it’s a colorful snapshot of five teenagers, all wearing green t-shirts –they must be part of an urban summer camp of some sort– playing Double Dutch.

Remember Double Dutch? I do, sort of. Two of the teens hold a jump rope in each hand and stand opposite each other while two others watch. The jumprope-holding teens are, from the looks of the photo, swirling back and forth with each hand, creating a double rainbow of a jumprope, through which Teen #5 is leaping.

He is the only boy in the photo.  He concentrates intently, his red sneakers flashing. The girls watch, expressionless. There appears to be no real happiness in any of them. Why not, though?

Now I see –this is the first time I’ve noticed this, so focused on the jumper and holders have I been– that there’s a crowd in the background.

Girls and boys and adults sit on a low curb that flanks the parking lot where the Double Dutchers stand, their hands between their knees. An older woman with a long necklace and a yellow sun hat and Birkenstocks sits in a green plastic lawn chair.  I have no sense of conversation.

Hark! A table to the left holds papers, a tall can of Mountain Dew, and not one but two trophies. Behind this table sit a man and a woman, also watching the jumpers.

Is it possible that I have stumbled upon a Double Dutch Jump-Off? I do believe it is possible. In fact, the evidence seems incontrovertible: the intent teens, the green t-shirts, the silent bystanders, faces full of wary expectation.

Now I’m remembering the feel of a jumprope in my hands. It’s been a long time. Would I still like it? Because I used to, on the hot black pavement outside the elementary school.

I used to bring a jump rope with me when I traveled, so that I could jump rope in my hotel room. But did I ever actually jump rope in a hotel room? Methinks not.

The first time I met my friend Karla was through a story she wrote, in which the girl was great at making up jump rope rhymes. You know the kind, chanted in a singsongy voice. The girl in Karla’s story made up wild and unique rhymes. I looked at Karla, sitting across from me, her beautiful dark curls and her beautiful smile, and I hoped that we could be friends.

Long ago, my friend Judy used to jump rope in the fourth floor stairwell of our dormitory. You could hear the monotonous beat all the way down the hall, nearly inaudible most of the time and then, when someone opened the door to the stairwell, suddenly loud and echoey. My God, that woman could jump rope.

I have it in my head that she would jump for an hour at a time, but thinking about it now, that seems excessive, even for back then, when most of us were skilled at the art of excession.

“Excession,” in case you’re wondering, appears to be the title of a science fiction by Scottish writer Iain Banks, but which I believe should be the noun form of “excessive” instead.

Judy, hello, are you out there? Did you in fact used to jump rope for an hour at a time?

Would I be disappointed if she said no, of course not, you have a deeply flawed memory?

And now I’m remembering the Rope Power team at my children’s elementary school. My God, could those kids jump. Single Rope Freestyle, Single Rope Power, Double Dutch Speed, Double Dutch Pairs Freestyle, and on and on.

At one Rope Power tournament, I sat in the stands with a videocamera –perhaps the only time I, the camera loser, ever tried to videotape anything– taping. The children leaped and flipped around the gym, ropes swirling in all directions. It was stunning.

For the finale, a lone jumper came leaping out into the center of the ring, one leg somehow pretzel-twisted up behind his ear, backward and forward jumping on one leg. The crowd roared –it was truly an amazing sight, this twisted-up one-legged child nimbly spinning about– and just then the video ends with the sudden sound of my voice saying “Holy shit! That’s my son!”

A my name is Alison, I come from Alabama, I eat apples and I like the month of April.


  1. John Steinecke · January 11, 2011

    Whoa. It was just this evening that I rediscovered the fact that I cannot, and never could, jump rope. And now I have been given the assignment to learn, which is curiously pleasing.


  2. Gabrielle McGhee · January 19, 2011

    I miss the pictures! Wahhh. And I remember the power jumping, and in my own childhood the double dutch, which I never did, although I was an excellent in and out jumper (Two people hold the rope, one or a line jump in and then out – maybe two jumps while in.) The typing – exactly why I learned to type, and prefer e mail to handwritten notes. It keeps up with my thoughts, which are way slower than yours, thank God.


  3. alison · January 21, 2011

    I’m not at all sure your thoughts are way slower than mine, Gabrielle; in fact, they might even be faster.

    Mr. Steinecke, how is the jumproping coming along?

    And this just in from Maryland: Judy, who is indeed out there, DID used to jump rope for an hour at a time. Or rather, a minimum of 45 minutes at a time, which in my world is close enough to an hour to be considered as such. Good heavens! Such a hellishly long time to jump rope!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s