Su Lum: Slumming
November 15, 2011
At a time when the country is worried about childhood obesity, I wonder why the schools haven’t reinstituted physical education classes, otherwise known as gym.
We used to have gym classes every day. When we were little it was called recess, and it involved lots of strenuous hopscotching and jump-roping and racing – the boys always doing more exciting things in another part of the playground.
When I was in high school, the girls had to walk a few blocks to the elementary school for gym glasses. Clutching our books, heads down against windy rains, the trek itself constituted a workout, followed by the double marathon of getting into and then out of our detestable gym suits in the smelly, cramped locker room and back to the high school before the bell rang.
In the interim, we were whipped around the floor of the gymnasium to warm up before the day’s scheduled activity, which could be anything from volleyball to basketball to tumbling, and baseball outside if the weather permitted.
I sucked so badly at all the ball games that the team captains would fight over who would be stuck with me, but, since I was the smallest in the class, I always got to be on the top of the human pyramids we built in tumbling class.
Back at the high school, the boys had their very own gym, off limits to girls. I never wished I were a boy so that I wouldn’t have to make the daily hike to the elementary school gym, but I did have rope envy.
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A feature of the boys’ gym was four thick ropes hanging from the high ceiling and, as it happened, I could climb ropes. If we had had ropes in our gym classes, I would have been a star performer.
When I was 4, my father hung a 25-foot rope swing on our backyard. I could shinny up to the crossbeam and, with my calloused hands, zip to the bottom without a burn.
I had two 50-foot ropes of my own. One, named Jane, was a fire escape out my third floor attic window. Jane went straight down to the kitchen door, perfect for smuggling snacks.
My “outside” rope, Tillie, was one of the best presents I ever received. With Tillie, I could get up into the highest trees, an early version of freedom later eclipsed by my first bicycle.
“You’d better put Tillie on the porch – it’s going to rain,” my mother would say.
I spent more time outside than in, so gym class was a redundancy, but for the TV and computer potatoes today, when phys ed would seem to be a necessity, it’s been cut from the budgets of most of our country’s schools.
The argument could be made that kids today carry around such staggering backpacks of books and supplies they get all the exercise they need just schlepping from class to class.
This I don’t understand either. Why do the kids get loaded down more and more when technology has reached the point where they could download all the stuff on an iPod, a Kindle and a cell phone and carry the whole thing in a pocket.