By Keli Stewart
i jumped double dutch this weekend, after an impromptu facebook call for grown women jumpers. we put on our “white girls” and good bras, flexing within a dollar store double rope. it wasn’t easy, relearning a rhythm and synchronization from fifteen to twenty years ago. surely the way a grown woman’s body fit within those thin white lips differed from the lean legs, beads and braggadocio of yesteryear! we reminisced about songs sang (ourchicagosongs were always filled with double entendres and love warnings),“digging potatoes,” double-handedness, braiding the rope and ways to enter.
i briefly remember in girlhood, running all the way down the street to the fire hydrant and back, only to stop at the rope like a brick wall, my arms carving a small space in front of my body summoning energy to enter. what happened if you failed to enter right? a welt like a belt across your legs, raised flesh, long as a keloid burning your cheek, the shame of not being able to compete as a top jumper, sitting curbside underneath a hellish sun waiting for your next chance. and you would jump again, rarely were you allowed to give up.
after a few trials at entering holding two hefty mama breasts, i did it. i jumped for two whole lines sung inside my head. the slight bounce and girl swagger of jumping inside a “good” turn emerged just as surely as feet adjusted to a slow or fast turn. “ya’ll turnin too fast!” but this time, unlike all-day childhood jumping, my arms grew tired. after i got out the rope, sweating like somebody’s mama trying to jump rope, i started to remember more of my black girl self. why was it that i wanted to jump today with this handful of grown women anyway? so entrenched in mothering two boys, i rarely think back to the girl i was, my desires, how i expressed them.
in our small world of jumping rope no bigger than a city parking spot, the big girls taught the smaller ones, you were both turner and jumper equally, you communicated how fast or slow the rope went for your turn, you expressed anger, and cried when you wanted to. you were expected to give as good as you got.