Portrait of Play, Week 29


This week was an investigation in the properties of matter. Flour mixed with oil changes and becomes moldable and silky, yet still powdery. When Charlotte plays with cloud dough it’s all about sensory exploration. Packing, molding, cutting, and tossing are all actions as experiments. There is no narrative, symbolism, or sequence to the play. It’s all feelings and impulse. Play that settles and heals.

While I watched the girls on the deck, James was in his shop working on his own investigations, melting metal into liquid pools to fill crevices in steel that would harden and cool; then grinding the excess solidified mass into flames that seem to only be matter as long as they burn. Solids. Liquids. Gasses. Matter is constantly changing.

My first bout of exercise post baby (other than some pitiful attempts at a 7 minute workout routine) was a spin class I attended this week. Now that Winnie has hit the 3 month mark, I can drop the kids off at the daycare in the gym while I work out. Charlotte is very hesitant in new situations, and when I dropped her off, she was nervous, but she managed. It helped that her cousin was with her and that she was so very excited to be going to a “classroom” again. When I picked her up, she said she wanted to go back again tomorrow (this could be very good motivation for me), but that she wanted me to stay with her. She was clingy as she talked about the experience that night, trying to make sense of all the whys and whats and whos that were involved. I forget how all consuming trying out new things can be for this cautious girl.

Chuck found a little cup filled with rainwater, and poured it into the dough. In an effort to let her explore how the dough would change with the water, I left her alone. But then more water was added, and I soon realized that we essentially had a big mess of sticky glue all over the deck to clean up. After enough squishing and sloshing, I made the mistake of trying to clean it by adding more water. I should have scooped up the mostly solid mass to be thrown away when I still could. Instead, after several buckets of water and lots of scrubbing, there will be sticky cloud dough residue on our deck for the rest of the summer.

The instructor hit the music, turned off the lights, and with the first “push through it” she gave us, I teared up. I felt all the feelings. The emotional and physical experience of growing a baby. The on the feet attention required to meet the needs of the 6-7 kids I have been watching all summer. The postpartum weight of caring for an infant around the clock and carrying the emotions of a 3 year old in transition. The feelings of self pity and confinement all melted as I dripped from my face both tears and sweat. I had a place now. I could exhale at the end of the day. The ride was full of moments of welled up tears and fist pumps (between moments of feeling like I might die). I felt changed, saved. The instructor even made eye contact with me and gave me a big smile once during the ride. I felt the same way I did as a kid at an Amy Grant concert when she looked at me from my third row seat and blew me a kiss during “I will Remember You.” Apparently the instructor wasn’t even that great according to my supportive sister-in-law who has tried out most of the gym’s instructors. It didn’t matter. Rejuvenation was now available; saunas, hot tubs, pool, group classes, other adults, even date nights, all courtesy of a YMCA membership price that I found hard to justify until now. Matter is constantly changing. With a simple addition of kid free gym time, all the elements of my life have transformed into something more desirable. This is settling. This is healing.

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3 thoughts on “Portrait of Play, Week 29

  1. Edith as she was looking at all the photos with me, “There’s Charlotte, there’s Charlotte, there’s Charlotte! She is my friend!” I also love all the Christmas lights on the deck. I need to get more for our backyard after Christmas this year. If I remember that with having a newborn this time! eeek

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