Updated: Feb 1
Whenever there’s a threat that something will be confiscated, my uncle mentions the skipping rope. The same as whenever I won’t finish my food, he brings up the bruschetta I refused to finish after only eating one bite on my First Communion Day.
The skipping rope was pink with blue handles. When in movement, the rope moved so quickly that you could barely make out the colour, but only hear a ‘whoosh’ every second second. My uncle bought me the skipping rope in a tiny pound shop attached to the artist’s studio located in the centre of his local village on the Wicklow mountains. That shop only opened once a week, but every day I headed in there - no matter who I was with - I was destined to come out with a toy of some kind.
The skipping rope came with an instruction manual that we unfortunately lost slightly afterwards in the back of our old Toyota Corolla. Along with the manual, there was a small booklet with skipping songs. Although the majority of these songs were naughty by nature, far too brazen for my little ears at the ripe age of four.
‘and if you disconnect me
I'll kick you from behind
the refrigerator there was a piece of glass
Miss Susie sat upon it and cut her little
ask me no more questions’
Initially I was under the impression that there must have been a month’s mind in our house because of the amount of people in the living room (a month’s mind always called for a crowd in this house). When in fact, the event that attracted the crowd was actually my grandfather’s eightieth birthday. It was the day after, and the cousins from Dublin had stayed the night to save them the journey. My parents were away for the day, and were expecting to collect me later on in the evening.
Not much was happening in the house before we arrived in with the skipping rope, other than the whole lot of them sitting on the one armchair watching Richie Kavanagh music videos. I had the skipping rope in my left hand, and the tags still attached to it.
“What in the name of you know what is that?” asked my grandmother, the apron still hanging out of her skirt from the dinner she made three hours ago. My uncle told them that he bought me a very expensive skipping rope for the price of two euro. When I was a child, I had to say goodbye to anything I wanted if it was over two euro. Since then, due to inflation, I’ve increased my cut-off point to four.
My grandmother who hailed from the deep depths of South Wexford had not seen a skipping rope since the early fifties. My grandfather, hyper from his birthday the night before, suggested we take off the tags and try out the rope. I headed towards the front door for the garden, then I noticed I was the only one. My uncles started pushing back the tables and chairs to make way. The rest of them lined up in a queue for their turn to skip. Even I knew that skipping inside was fairly dangerous.
First up was my cousin and the skipping rope stopped several times. She wasn’t quick enough for the pink skipping rope with the blue handles, and it whacking the ankles off of her. She gave up after her knee nearly dislocated from moving both feet in unison for the first time in thirty years. Next was my uncle, all six foot five inches of him. In order to fit him through the wire without chopping him in half, both family members on each end of the rope had to move in closer together. He had a natural flair for skipping, there was no doubt about that. Everyone believed it was all those hours spent training in GAA. Football, that is. The people of Wicklow know little about hurling. Naturally, my uncle would have been able to skip for hours. However, the skipping rope couldn’t last that long. Due to his height, the rope was nearly touching the ceiling; and knocked off the lights every few minutes until the two trustees holding either handle were unable to see where they were going!
My other uncle wanted to join in then. He nicknamed himself ‘Snake Hips’ for his ability to move so quickly. Again, that was a self-given nickname. So I don’t know if he was any good at athletics, other than the rumours he had come up with. This was his time to shine! I couldn’t wait to see what I was up against. His bragging did not live up to reality, as he got knocked out on his first try! “You’re going too fast,” he insisted. Then, on his second try, they were supposedly going too slow. He gave up then. Exhausted. Not just with skipping, but of people nagging him as well.
My grandfather was next in line. A dedicated Irish dancer, this man was sure to impress us all at eighty years of age. I was excited to see him skip. Everything he done, he put in the best of his ability. Before he walked up the rope, he turned to me and told me to sing the song from the booklet. I agreed. There he was, skipping in a dancing fashion as my uncles and myself sang skipping songs we had only learned minutes beforehand.
There was chanting, screaming, laughing, bouncing, and every other noise known to man. Then suddenly the racket stopped. We all looked away from the old man skipping, and saw that my mother had entered the room. The show was over. My mother let out a roar, insisting that that skipping rope was lethal! It was far too dangerous anywhere, let alone to have inside the house. She told us that she could barely see it it was going so fast. My grandfather just laughed. My uncles explained that it was one of the only toys that didn’t require batteries at that time.
Our debates were no match. The skipping rope was confiscated. Not to be seen again. There were days when I believed that I had finally found it, but I had it confused for an iron with a multicoloured rope. Two years ago I found the pink skipping rope with blue handles, on top of the fridge in my kitchen (that I’m still not able to reach). So much time had passed, and most of the people who had skipped that day had passed too. https://youtu.be/a7I2DsFp2YU https://youtu.be/tf2a_mQ7xX4