We all took turns grabbing some elastic bands from the big ball my brother had just set on the ground. We had each been searching everywhere and collecting them for weeks. Finally, we had enough. Everybody grabbed a few and sat in a makeshift line. First Greg, then Trecia, then Charlene, next Kirk and finally me. I was always last. Curse or blessing of being the baby of the family, I guess.
Carefully we connected the elastic bands to each other and then doubled them to ensure that the Chinese Skip rope wouldn’t break like the last one had. We had been forced to be creative playing outside for the past few weeks since the last one broke and had gotten too small to play. We had salvaged the elastic bands that were still good and started digging up every corner of the yard, every room in every house to find elastic bands.
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My job was to beg them from school. This is where being the “baby” came in handy. My teachers would always give me things because I was good in school and still adorable. The rest of them. Umm, not so much. Even if them was good at school, everybody except Kirk, the adorable part did gone long time.
The older kids re-appropriated elastic bands they found around the house without anybody noticing. Then again, I’m sure our parents noticed, but it was better for everybody if we were outside playing in the evenings, so they probably just let it happen.
While we were collecting the ‘lastic bands we had to find other things to do in the evenings after school. Climb the mango or almond tree, play school or house under the piece a zinc, torment the dog them, play hopscotch in the dirt, hide and seek, but we all were waiting patiently for the day when we finally had enough ‘lastic bands and it was finally here.
With each pull through and knot of a ‘lastic,’ the “rope” and our excitement grew. We had to keep scooting backwards in the dirt, as the rope grew. You couldn’t hear a sound. None of us talked, which was weird for us. The only sound you heard was the occasional, “pass me some more ‘lastic,” when the stash one of us had grabbed ran out. When the last ‘lastic was put on, we all slowly stood. This time our Chinese skip wouldn’t break. Every lastic band was doubled and we used way more, so it wouldn’t get over stretched and burst.
“Nobadda leave da one yah outside enuh (Don’t leave it outside),” said Trecia to no one in particular. We were all guilty of forgetting to put the Chinese Skip inside after playing. Add the sweltering Jamaican heat to ‘lastic bands and you had a recipe for failure. We knew. We had learned the hard way.
Trecia and Greg worked to connect the two ends of the Chinese Skip together to close it. Finally, it was ready. Our multicolored, sturdy, stretchy bringer of happiness.
Greg and Kirk, quickly moved to the opposite ends of the Chinese Skip and stepped in. They slid the Chinese skip down to their ankle and it was time to begin. I always went first because it wouldn’t take long for me to be out. Everybody else was 5 and 6 years older than me, which meant they were much taller. I usually could survive till around their knee, but by the time they go to their waist, I was doomed.
After me, Trecia took Kirk’s spot opposite Greg in the rope. Kirk wasn’t bad, he made it to under the arm before getting out. Next was Charlene. We usually played in reverse age order. She did a little worse than Kirk and made it almost to the end of hips.
Greg, was up after that, even though he was the oldest. Him neva (never) really into any Chinese Skip playing, but would make an attempt up to a certain point. Today that point was hip.
Now time for Trecia, the real star of the show.I don’t even know why wi bodda play wid har (why we played against her) , nobody couldn’t beat har. It never even mek ( didn’t make) logical sense enuh because she not tall. Kirk and Charlene are taller and still didn’t do as good.
Alright, champion Trecia time.
Ankle, knee, hip. Breeze through like it was nothing.
Waist, underarm, neck. No problem whatsoever.
Look like a fly she flying when she jump up to catch the line under her foot. For underarm, she had to use the lay on your back trick to catch the Chinese Skip rope good, so it wouldn’t slip.
Now for the grand finale... Fingertips.
She lay down on her bottom and stretch her foot to step on the line to get in. Then, lay down again on her back to get each side of the Chinese Skip rope and then let the ropes slip between her legs.
Alright now. Com’een ( she’s acts) like acrobat and jump in. Jump out time now. Trecia lay down and use her foot to hold down one of the ropes again and just ease (slides) out.
Cross left leg, cross right leg. Diamond mek now (She’s made the diamond). She pull up her shorts higher fi get ready fi jump out (She pulls her shorts up higher and prepares to jump out).
She do it, she do it! Lay down and jump in again. Now time to jump out, but instead of laying down, she pull up her shorts some more and… It almost looked like she was flying. Then, uh- oh.
Straight a grung dat land (She falls on the ground).
Nobody said a word and we all looked on, waiting to see if she would get up from where she’d fallen in on her side. Slowly, she turned over in the dirt and then sat up wid a big smile on her face.
“Me- win- a-gain!”
Hiss teeth. She show off yuh see (not really, is bad mind mi bad mind- I was just jealous), but silently I was cheering Trecia on. Seeing my older cousin do it and get all the way to the end gave me hope that one of these days, I’d make it all the way to the end too. I just had to keep practicing, even when I had to play by myself and practice by putting the Chinese Skip around an empty barrel and chair.
If you enjoyed "A We Say Acrobat: Chinese Skip," read the other short stories that have been released in the I am an Island Girl series. Story 3, If Ah Poop Yuh Dead , is a hilarious account of why Fridays were my favorite days of the week. The fourth story in the series, Verandah Key, is about one of my "key adventures in another part of the island and the first story in the collection, Duppy Business, is a tale of the evil genius of siblings mixed with a popular Jamaican superstition (belief to some). Additional stories in the I am an Island Girl series include Rolling Calf, a story of a feared Jamaican ghost. Others such as "Fix Yuh Face," a story about a bad injury, and Bad Dawg Dem will help you understand how island girls handle challenges. Come back often to check for new releases in the I am an Island Girl series.