That’s the image that lingered in my mind as I read my friend Amy Sullivan’s book.
It seems a bit odd, I know.
After all, Amy’s book may be jam-packed with wisdom and wit.
But it is not crammed with references to monkey bars.
Or monkeys, for that matter.
But Amy does mention an ice-throwing posse of boys in chapter 3. (And I know of a few ornery boys who act like monkeys now and then.)
And if you keep reading into chapter 4, you’ll run right into Amy’s sad-but-true confessions about her sixth-grade lip-syncing debut. (And the retired middle-school teacher in me still remembers the unique smell of tween dances. Let’s be honest, hot gyms filled with sweaty sixth-graders can smell like a roomful of monkeys.)
All arguments aside, I guess God just knows that sometimes this word-weaving mama needs a simple picture to remember a powerful truth.
And, in the end, I guess that’s why I can’t stop thinking about monkey bars.
You see, on the day I cracked open Amy’s book, I was sitting on a splintered wooden park bench on the edge of a treelined playground.
And Maggie was hanging from the monkey bars, her freshly-skinned knees curled tightly around the silver bar and stringy blonde hair hair blowing willy-nilly in the wind.
“What if we all lived like this, Mama?” she hollered as her face grew crimson from her upside-down dangle.
“Like what?” I asked, glimpsing up from my book.
“Like this,” she repeated, her short torso vacillating above the damp mix of wood chips and mud that promised to both cushion and splinter her fall.
“Upside down. What if we all lived upside down?” she giggled.
She waved at her shadow casting a dark figure on the ground below and laughed even harder, entertained by her own musings.
Never short on words, Maggie continued her whimsical chatter.
“Mama! Mama! What if we walked on our heads and stuck our feet up in the sky and when we smiled our lips were curved like this…”
My girl flashed me a toothy, upside-down grin as she swung like a giant pink pendulum; then her smile faded and she wailed a high-pitched warning, “I’m gonna fall! I’m gonna fall!”
I raced to my daughter’s side and unhooked her sweaty knees and flipped her feet back on the ground with a poof of dust.
Maggie tottered for a moment, and then cast me a a mischievous smirk and turned for the playground equipment.
She scooted up the slide, climbed through the bright yellow plastic tunnel and positioned herself within reach of the monkey bars once again.
I shook my head as my littlest girl resumed her inverted posture, and I stretched out on the bench with that book written for families who want to give their children more.
More than entitlement.
More than stuff.