Chandra Mayor, Poet and Novelist, and Janet Stewart try hula-hoop dancing with the fire dancers (Jim Agapito)
When I was a child, I told people that I was Joan of Arc, reincarnated. She was the only person I could name who'd been burned at the stake. And I was afraid of fire.
(I was more afraid of fire than of the inevitable social ostracism that occurs when an already-odd nine-year-old solemnly announces that she is the reincarnation of the 15th century martyred patron saint of France. Seriously).
While I was neither the loneliest (nor the oddest) kid around, I did find the whole playground universe perplexing. I was tall, gangly, and awkward. While other kids played complicated games of frenetic tag, leaping and jumping and breaking bones, I preferred reading. Me and Anne Shirley, down by the schoolyard.
I created a January garden of abandoned Christmas trees in the backyard, scavenged from the neighbours' back lanes. With my best friend, I wrote a play about Mother's Day on Mars...in a made-up Martian language. (You see how the social ostracism becomes a theme). I did playful things...but I rarely, if ever, just played. Like, with a running, jumping, unselfconscious kid's playful body, in glorious and whirling abandon.
Playing is kind of weird.
So I told a man named Vincent one day, over dinner in my kitchen. And he was the first person to ever agree with me. The best part? Vincent plays professionally. He plays as vocation and passion, with balls and batons, hoops and lights. And fire.
And he assured me that I could learn how to play, too.
He didn't play much as a kid either. As an adult, he deliberately taught himself how to play. Revolutionary! (And both terrifying and heady to that gangly, tall, awkward novel-loving girl child who'd grown into an awkward, tall, gangly novel-writing woman).
This is how I came to find myself standing (awkwardly, of course) in Vimy Park, scanning for Vincent, and surrounded by agile and adept people spinning hula hoops, balls, and batons.