Tuesday, December 7, 2010
last day of school, 2010. we finished up today, and i'm sure impromptu carols and well-wishes are still caroming off the walls and linoleum. i also got to give away 40 yo-yo's today, something i haven't had the pleasure of doing in nearly 3 years. 40 of these 201's.
mind you, it wasn't just a holiday thing; the kids had to earn these (well, ok, kind of). they had to endure 3 weeks of yo-yo physics AND ace a [20 question, all matching] test to take their babies home. they had to learn the difference between transverse and standing waves, and explain the 3 laws of motion with their sleepers, and... yeah. i certainly like to think that they'll retain some of it. i guess i'll let you know in a few years when they get to conceptual physics (and hopefully i am not yelled at). you'll note the faded bison sticker on mine. everyone had an animal avatar to distinguish their throw. bison are cool.
for the last 4 months, yo-yo mania has so fully permeated the halls of the school that i can't make it through carpool duty without being asked for a yo-yo suggestion from a parent, or through a study hall without having to extract a bit of string lint from a bearing shield. yes, it really is that wonderful. it's not like it's been hard or as though i've done anything special. yo-yo's are really, really cool toys. i play with them (all the time) at a school full of kids. you don't smoke dynamite near a powder-keg and expect it to make for an average wednesday.
for 5 years, the 201 has been the first yo-yo i recommend to kids. it looks cool, takes a beating, handles whatever you can, and when you want to pretend that you just NEED an unresponsive yo-yo... it even mods up nice. the velocity is a better beginner yo-yo by far, but i've learned that to a 12 year-old, the numbers 10 and 20 are pretty distant from one another - may they long cling to that naivete.
if you've never had the opportunity, means, or inclination to give a yo-yo to a kid, be they a yo-yo die-hard at a contest, or someone presumably utterly-disinterested by the prospect of manipulating a non-digital toy with their actual-digits... i heartily recommend it. today, and over the last few weeks as our 'yo-yo physics' unit has marched on, i've been able to witness more 'first sleepers', 'first braintwisters', and 'first knucklewhacks' than i could shake a stick at (i've even seen a few spectacular 'first eli hops' and 'first boingies'). when you're in such a position, getting to watch kids fumble through the process of learning to manage string tension and slip-knots... a certain degree of sentimental nostalgia is unavoidable. like it or not, you re-experience your own tentative missteps, and you laugh about how positively awkward you were... just before you realize how awkward you still ARE.
i'm an old man by yo-yo player standards, but i'm not so ancient that i can't remember learning the basics myself. every sleeper on my midnight special felt like a grandiose spectacle, capable of stopping traffic (though it never did). split the atom, i learned on a purple fireball in my college dorm, courtesy of ken's world on a string. i probably did that trick 500 times in 2 days, for (or maybe 'at') every human-person i ran into. i recall being so irritated at bee string that i wanted to return the $2.00 5-pack to toys r us because it kept kinking up... blissfully (or irately) unaware that my own winding technique and total lack of ufo/sidewinder know-how were responsible for the issue. these last weeks, watching some kids try to wrestle their new toy into submission while others found themselves able to handle it with a strange grace... all of these memories are made real again, and it's like looking through a fogged window at a guy i used to know.
i can do things now that would have blown that guy's mind. i've got tricks that are so outside the realm of what i once thought possible that i could make him quit altogether, tossing that fireball into a sewer or shattering that midnight special underfoot. i could make these kids today quit, too, if i comport myself with too much pride, or scoff at their first throws. sure that would sound like a dick move, but i see it on every playground i monitor and, sadly, at every contest i attend.
we've all got a bit of that destructive pride. it's a comfort to imagine that i've made some progress toward that sunset out there; that the horizon i'm chasing is somehow closer for all the knowledge and skill i think i've amassed. but walking around a globe, i'll never reach it; i'll just come back to the beginning. it's easy to feel some pity for said 'guy i used to know'; pity for his ignorance or for how many times his soft knuckles will redden learning lacerations on wood. but watching these kids, i remember that he doesn't need my pity. because it's been a joy. every throw. and considering that, i haven't really come so far at all. on my BEST days, i get to be that guy again.
it occurs to me that in 5 years of teaching yo-yo science, i've probably given away 300 yo-yo's. now i'll grant you that some of em were butterflies, but still... if one of those kids sees a yo-yo when they're 20 and vaguely connects it with some past experience... jeez, even if they don't, it's been well worth the while.
it's christmas-time. give somebody a yo-yo. someone who's never played. and in so doing, embrace your own beginnings, and recognize that (thank god), you're still that same person; beginning all the time.