There are no children on the playground.

I remember visiting a playground when I was a child. Amazing, isn't it, how certain memories - even if they're mere shadows lurking in the background - seem to stay with you. And for what purpose? Just because we are only human, I suppose. Or maybe I remember it because there is a childhood photograph of me taken in a playground. Or are they two separate incidents? Who knows. And does it really matter? I remember a playground as a very young child, especially the roundabout, as I seemed rather keen to ride on it. I'm not sure if we called it a roundabout when we were children but that appears to be its name. I seem to recall the creaking sound as it turned and that it was heavy and made of steel and wood.

There are no children on the playground.

Perhaps, Father, if you'll indulge me one more time - although I doubt if this would be the last time - and let me say what I need to say. If I'm being self-absorbed, so be it. I get so paranoid now, afraid of being labelled as such. And if it is a label, I do not wear it proudly. But things need to be said, to be expressed. And I know You know them even before I say anything.

It doesn't seem fair, does it, to be childless like this. Or maybe it is fair. Maybe it's payback time for all the times I've been ... what? Maybe it's just the luck of the draw, whatever that really means. Maybe it's just life happening, going through the motions, trying to live a good life, trying to cope with the problems that come our way, and in the meantime, we just get older. And children? What children? I feel a bit of a fraud - or like an undeserving child who is complaining about something she shouldn't be complaining about - because there are women who have had miscarriages or stillbirths, women who actually conceived and maybe even gave birth. I - we - never even really tried. We never tried. And we never tried because there were reasons and issues, weren't there? Life happens, yes, and after a while, maybe you don't even desire that sort of intimacy. It is not that I don't have any desires. It feels rather strange at times, although "strange" is an odd way of putting it.

There is an incompleteness. Physically, emotionally. And all the while I was growing older, knowing that with each passing year, the chance of getting pregnant was slimmer and slimmer. And still we weren't trying. And I suppose that was why I came to You a few times, wondering, asking, where my marriage was going.

What is it for? What is it about? Am I being led to a place I don't want to go? And if I don't speak up, there is no one to blame but me. It is not really talked about. Not anymore. And the subject itself is so sensitive. Sometimes there is talk of children, or about children rather. Other people's children. But all it is, is talk. And there is an emptiness within. There is also emptiness within the house, the absence of children's laughter and running footsteps, conversations at the dinner table, hearing the doors opening and closing as they make their way from one room to another, voices in the hallway. I think about that sometimes because I remember how it was in my own home whilst growing up. There was always somebody around. And sometimes I resented that. But now it seems that I resent the silence that wraps itself around me in my loneliness. Or is it my aloneness?

There are no children on the playground.

Do men think these things differently? Is that a silly question? Fathers are important. I never said they weren't. But fathers don't conceive and carry the unborn child within. That is a whole new experience, an entirely different experience. An entirely different world. All these experiences are tiny worlds in themselves, and a few of these worlds are out of bounds to me, one or two of them too forbidden to be talked about. These are delicate matters, private matters, between a wife and her husband. Life is fragile, isn't it, Father? So are relationships. I feel left out, unable to participate, and all I can do is be an onlooker. I am an observer and I am tired of it. Or maybe I'm tired because I'm growing older and my body isn't what it used to be.

There are no children on the playground.

I am a bystander, looking on as other people's children laugh and play on the swings and slides and roundabouts and monkey bars, running, yelling to one another, or playing contentedly in the sandboxes. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, babysitters, friends of the families, talk and smile and laugh and supervise and look on as the children play. Then all the families leave, all the adults and the children that they brought along with them, but I remain.

And there are no children on the playground.



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