Double Dutch

Growing up, my cousins and I used to play double dutch. It was one of my favorite parts of our visits. If I close my eyes, I can hear the rhythmic pounding of rope and sneakers on  pavement, the echoes of the songs, and the sound of the beads in my braids bouncing in time. I enjoyed the rhythm, the quickness, competing against one another and ourselves. I loved the way it stretched across generations, we sang the songs our mothers taught us, which they had learned from their mothers. We were connected by blood and across time. Somewhere around seventh grade, we decided that jump rope was for the little kids and so we spent our time listening to the older kids conversations. I stowed my rope in my closet to be slowly covered by old cleats and school notebooks. Over our winter break, I was looking for something  in my closet and came across my dusty, frayed jump rope. It got me thinking about all the things I learned jumping with my cousins.

  • The quickly moving ropes can be scary, but take a breath and run in anyway.
  • Sometimes, your going to mess up, the rope will catch you mid-jump and pull you back down. It will be disappointing to stand there, a little winded, suddenly feeling the sting from the beads hitting your face and look down at the tangle of rope around your feet. Disentangling yourself will be frustrating, but do it, sort it through as quickly as possible and get ready for your next turn.
  • Everyone has a role to play. Success is only achieved when everyone is in harmony. The turners in sync, the jumper on time, the clapping on beat. This requires communication, understanding the slight nod between the turners as they increase speed, knowing the words in the songs that signal a shift in tempo or require a response. It also requires trust, in everyone else’s ability to do their job well. Harmony is earned.
  • Skill is important, but so is stamina. It doesn’t matter how many snazzy tricks you can do if you get tired after 30 seconds.
  • Find the rhythm and stick to it. The speed may change but the basic rhythm wont. Sometimes, my life feels like I’m jumping and the ropes are just flying faster and faster. It can be disorienting, but if I can remember to find the rhythm, I can comfortably keep up.

I’ve been reminded again this week that the lessons I learned from summer days with cousins and a tattered pink rope have sustained me throughout my life. They’ve taught me how to swallow fear and shrug off disappointment, how to find my rhythm in fast-paced quickly changing environments. They taught me to appreciate harmony and the people who help me do what I need to do. And they taught me some really fun rhymes.





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