"My Mother Punched Your Mother"

"My mother punched your mother in the face. What color was da blood?" "Red!" "R-E-D, that spells the color red and you are not it." 

Have you ever heard the rhyme, Eenie-meenie-miney-mo?
Yeah, it's like that. 
Except not. 

"My mother punched your mother in the face. What color was the blood?" This time a girl with braided pigtails shouts out "blue!" B-L-U-E, blue. Phew. I’m not "it" for our impending game of freeze tag. Thank goodness. I could never keep up with these balls of neglected energy, much less be the instigator of giggly sprinting. 

Newark, NJ has its fine moments and I never enjoy the city more than when I'm bounding around like an 8-year-old on a blacktop (except maybe when I'm bounding around on a rooftop). There is an inherent carefree perspective to the city when you’re running in parking lots with its most innocent inhabitants. Though like the children themselves, a worriless existence is often marred by the sharp pangs of reality - their reality, mind you, not mine. 

The people who work at Safe Haven, a nonprofit after-school program in Newark, sometimes come into the city on weekends. They need an outlet to see others their own age and to escape what can be a highly uplifting or horribly depressing lifestyle.

But the opposite is true for me.

There are days I need to leave the city in order to half grasp my own existence, much less remember why I relocated to New York in the first place. I'd be lying if I told you my connections in Newark weren’t one of those reasons. 

The truth is, I need to be pulled in multiple directions. I need to get holes in my clothes, and scratches on my knees. I need to fall down and run fast on a playground and have hair in my eyes and let a fraction of my "adult" life die - because if I don’t? If I do not escape my everyday world, I will surely loose touch with a more truthful version of reality. 

And that can’t be found in an office. Or a club in the Lower East Side. Or even at a bible study in the Village. My realities are always found when I'm most uninhibited, and yet heavily burdened by something that has nothing to do with myself. 

“Tag! I gotcha!”

A smaller girl with big brown eyes laughs around my “frozen” self. As she skips in a giddy circle, a group of children run past us, mowing her down in a matter of seconds. WHAM. Tearfully she looks up at me from the concrete, with a rip in her tights and dirt on her white blouse.

Ah, the pangs of reality.

But I wasn’t worried about her. I knew in a matter of minutes she’d be smiling again, probably trying to play tag by pulling on my green sweater and perpetuating an unsightly hole in the right sleeve.

If there is anything I’ve learned about the children of Newark, it is that they are a special type of brave we can only strive to be within our own worlds. Their resilience shines through every bump, cut, and bruise.    

Hawkins Street playground battles, and a little dose of reality.