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Where children used to play

  • 09 February 2011

Once a year the children come out to play. They arrive with their parents, who are laden with salads, drinks, folding chairs. Cupcakes, chips, plastic plates. The children bring chalk, scooters, skateboards, lightness.

Before long the women have nestled into the folding chairs in the shade of the bottle-brushes and the wattle myrtles. They unburden the loads of their lives by talking of work and holidays and children, in between their offspring seeking attention.

The men stand about in their shorts and their beers, talking of hammers and nails and of children. Sometimes a youngster appears at a father's hip, asking for what their mother has refused.

Once a year the children come out to play. On the footpath at first, in small groups, but then onto the road as a collective of energy and curiosity. They draw pink stick figures on the bitumen with their chalk. They draw a yellow line for scooter races, a wobbly line the length of the 300 metre street. They scribble their names in blue and green and white onto the bumpy tar.

If the children were older — in high school, say — you might mistake the chalk for spraycans, the