We love Jack Straws.
As we open the box and pile the pieces high, a circle of calm encloses us. Pushed right outside the arena of play is the constant constraint and shackle of our daily lives; the humdrum of strategies and parenting tools lay forgotten, unnecessary next to the joy of play. Here, on the inside we turn our attention to new, more colourful tools: the ladders, the hooks, the sledgehammers and the walking sticks so critical to the game.
For the fifteen minutes it takes to play, all the stresses, the labels, the meltdowns, and the challenges seem a distant memory; they hold no power here. We both fall into the pure and natural rhythm of concentration, and there is an easy, shared enjoyment in every move. To us, Jack Straws represents respite; a precious few moments of blissful, carefree freedom.
It wasn’t always this way, and it took a long time for us to get here. Games and fun trigger rage in CHT. Play – with its customs and difficulty levels and need for cooperation – all too often creates an emotional bottleneck that requires self-control and a self-confidence well beyond her reach. Games – with their regulative and constitutive rules – are little more than bear traps, baited to snare and trip her up.
So Jack Straws offers us a key to some much needed, child-like play, and also a perfect metaphor for the journey we have taken to get here. Just as we precariously push and nudge at the pieces in search of the perfect angle and pressure with which to ease out the spade or the pick, we have to patiently tweak and nudge at the tangled barriers and obstacles that block our route to fun and the lighter side to life. Each attempt, each foray into the pile can cause fresh emotional tremors, shifts and landslides that stop us dead in our tracks once again. But as soon as our turn comes again, we dive bravely in, eager for another try.
The game – like our lives – demands a light but firm touch. We bite our tongues and hold our breaths, wary of the risk that comes with every move. But we brace ourselves and keep chipping away at the pile, revealing little by little what lies beneath. Both games fascinate and challenge, and both require skill and perseverance.
And to both we give our whole, hopeful hearts.