As a kid, I couldn’t wait for summertime. There were about 15 children on my street, and we played every childhood game you can imagine—freeze tag, relay racing, Simon Says, Mother May I, and so much more. But my favorite summertime outdoor activity (besides getting ice cream from Mr. Softee) was jumping double Dutch.
As early as 6 years old, I have memories of hearing the click-clack, click-clack of the rope hitting the gravel of my street. “Are you right-handed or left-handed?” the older girls would ask newbies, in order to determine which side they should be jumping in on. I’m a righty, so I jump in on the right. Eventually, I learned to do tricks—pop-ups, the typewriter, crisscross. I also loved when we split up into teams and I had to jump with a partner as everyone counted aloud rapidly to the beat of our feet, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50. All the girls—and some of the boys—on the block would jump for hours every single day until I was in my late teens.
Double Dutch is so ingrained in me as a basic childhood joy that in my early 20s, I taught it at an after-school services center in Harlem. “Every little Black girl should know how to jump double Dutch,” I said to the director when I pitched the class. She agreed, and I taught it to girls of varying races the entire summer. They grew to love jumping just as much as I did.
The years went by, and my time became filled with the anxieties that adulthood brings. From time to time, I’d hear about an adult double Dutch class in passing, but I never took the time to investigate. This summer, though, I couldn't ignore the double Dutch content that kept popping up in my Instagram and Facebook feeds. I watched the videos with nostalgia and then saw that there was a Facebook group called 40+ Double Dutch Club, and these women were getting down! They were jumping rope the way I remembered! I joined the page and asked if there were any meetups near me and was thrilled to find that there was a group that meets every Saturday about 10 minutes from my house. I promised myself I’d go and pushed away all the noise in my head telling me I had too many things to tend to, and that I was out of shape. Nope—be gone, incessant negative chatter.
Last Saturday, with my daughter in tow, I went to my first session. As I entered the park, I legit could have cried when I saw the women jumping and heard the beautiful and familiar sound of the rope hitting the pavement. They were so welcoming, with big smiles and hellos all around.
I have to admit, I was nervous, but I booted the nerves out of my system and moved to the right side of the ropes to get ready for my first jump in more than two decades. The rope click-clacked beautifully, and off I went. I jumped! And I did pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I jumped again, then again—then had to chill out because I thought I might pass out. I got congratulations all around, including from my daughter, who said, “Mommy! You did so good!”
I’ll be jumping double Dutch as many Saturdays as I can, along with my daughter, who is learning how to jump straight rope and will eventually graduate to double Dutch. When I think about the stories she’ll tell her kids one day, about her early experience with double Dutch, it makes me so proud to know that I’ll be an integral part of her nostalgic accounts of summer fun.
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