She danced on me this morning. With her mother’s phone playing the songs she likes. She paused to change the song and then danced again. She was wearing new clothes I hadn’t seen before, white with navy stripes, light and moving in the air as she moved. And just one sock, as is her way. The air is no longer hot, it’s nice to get some bounces in to limber up the springs.
When I first arrived in February, the man and the woman, with their breath coming out in clouds in the cold, were shouting at each other when they found that two parts were missing, The motion-detector spotlights shined on their heads in those winter nights as they put it all together.
I never knew what it was like to be adopted by a family. I had days of non-stop dancing, bouncing, flipping and laughing, especially at the beginning. The children would bring others to come see me, and then I would have lots of them all at once, laughing and playing tag and falling over. I helped to keep them safe, with the zip closed, my netting pulled tights, and stable legs.
Then in March and April, suddenly there were no friends around, but my family was using me every day, for hours at a time. Sometimes the children would fight over who could go first. Other times they would go together, giggling and falling, sometimes one on the back of the other, until they collapsed in a heap.
Then, over time, the smaller one, she would spend more time on me alone. She jumped and danced and talked to herself in different voices, as if a whole set of characters were with her. When she caught her mother looking through the window, she would stop abruptly and shake her head and insist all would be ruined if she was observed.
The other child, not as small, preferred it when he could have the friends over. If he was alone, he jumped and flung himself about. Sometimes he landed on his back, or his front. Sometimes he would do a rotation and twist and land on his feet, then hit the net with his momentum. He seemed to like the rhythm, the pounding feeling going through his body. I could feel his weight and his power, and I responded with every bounce.
The tallest one, the father, he seemed too shy for me. Perhaps he thought I would shudder under his weight. I wouldn’t, but he didn’t know that.
The woman would sometimes come out too. At first, she was with the small ones, and they would laugh and sing and drop on their bottoms like nursery children. But later, as the weeks passed, the woman would only come by herself, after the children had quieted down and left me. She would climb the ladder, pull the zip, and lie down. No bouncing at all, just lying on her back looking at the clouds and the sky overhead. She didn’t need the music, like the small girl, or the pounding, like the boy. She just seemed to need me to be still, and to support her quietly for a moment in time.
It’s nice to be needed.
In the hot months I was sprayed with water, hit by water balloons, and filled with swimming toys. The boy invented new games with different sized balls all bouncing off him and each other. He grew taller and made up a game with his father outside the net, playing catch and jumping at the same time. The man stood with feet solidly on the ground, while the boy was constantly moving, jumping and twisting.
As the months went by, I saw less of the boy. He would come for just a few minutes for some heavy jumping, and then come off again.
The smaller child though, she is the most loyal. She continues to bring out the music and the different characters and seems to enter her own world, ensconced in my circle of netting and springs.
But today, she only danced for a moment in the morning and then ran off when her mother called.
She is gone now, and I don’t know where she is. I hope she’ll be back.
I am here. Nothing had changed for me.
Amelia B. Kyazze is a writer, photographer and editor based in southeast London. Her debut novel, Into the Mouth of the Lion, is due to be published by Unbound in 2021. Based on her notebooks and photographs from when she worked in Angola in 2002, the book is about a photographer searching for her missing sister at the end of Angola's civil war.
More background: for 18 years she worked with humanitarian aid organisations such as Oxfam, Save the Children and the British Red Cross. She travelled to more than forty countries documenting humanitarian crises and efforts to rebuild or prepare for future disasters. Her work took her to Angola, where Into the Mouth of the Lion is set, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur (Sudan), Uganda, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, India and many other countries across Africa, Asia and Southern Europe.
She also writes short stories, and Covid in Brixton, a light-hearted story about friendship during the time of the pandemic, was story of the month for the Byte Shorts showcase in May 2020. Another piece Rush Hour is included in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2019. In addition, she writes book reviews of children's literature.
She was encouraged to find that she was long-listed for the Mslexia Woman’s First Novel Prize 2017.
Amelia is a member of the Greenwich Writers Meetup, sharing drafts and tips with other writers. In January 2020 she started a new venture, Writing the 7 Senses, facilitating creative writing workshops for children and adults, in schools and at local festivals.
About her publications:
As part of her humanitarian work, she has delivered speeches in Geneva, Brussels and at UN side events in New York. She has been interviewed by CNN, Al-Jazeera and many other news outlets. Her non-fiction work has been published in the Huffington Post, the International Review of the Red Cross, ODI/HPN and many other places.
Her photography has been published in a series of books, The Humanity in the Landscape Series, available on Blurb.com. She has participated in solo and group shows of her photography in New York, London and Oxford. Her photography portfolio can be viewed here.