As soon as we walked in I thought, ‘this was a mistake’.
It smelt musty and the air was hot and heavy and oppressive. It was full of bodies and rubbish, tables and chairs, chips and coke. My head felt cloudy. Bright, colourful, round and smiley, yet inescapably dull and dingy. We went our separate ways, one-on-one into the foray. I sat and watched; climbing, teetering, throwing, giggling. The noise was pressing in on every side and the lack of air made me feel claustrophobic in this warehouse with a high ceiling. We paused and sat amongst the crumbs for a break. All that was on offer was fizzy, chocolatey and artificial. I tried to find a happy place in my mind…
Where was I?
The Jelly Bean Play Centre.
Well, I got your attention. This place ought to be renamed ‘the place to go when you’ve been a bad parent and need your kid to have fun while you are tortured and weep silently in the corner’. It felt like a representation of an aspect of our society that isn’t too becoming… overstimulation of mind and body. It was a typical soft play place but perhaps busier, hotter, messier. Why does every surface have to be a bright colour different from the adjacent surface? Why are there weird, smiling jelly beans everywhere? Why can’t there be a single healthy thing sold in the cafe? The best we could find was McCoy’s steak flavour crisps…
I had a revelation while I sat watching child B totter around the under two’s area. I felt like this was the last place on earth I wanted to be… ever, but yet I felt strangely capable of staying right until it was a suitable time to leave. I felt peaceful, calm, even slightly contented. My mind was telling me “run for your life!!! This is pure punishment!” Yet I felt able to stay, to smile and to savour the moment.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:7
When I stop and remember, ‘Dad’s gone’ and the waves of disbelief, shock, torment, pain and loss come tumbling down on me I think: how can I go on? But yet, despite the knowledge of this terrible situation I find myself in, there’s peace, there’s hope, and there’s even joy, and so…
I keep going.
…As far away from the Jelly Bean Centre as I can get.