High above the chimney tops – that’s where you’ll find me. Haha! Definitely not me. Still relegated to a more grounded perspective due to recent surgical ankle relocation. But, rather, my wee peeps. Up in the trees. Swinging from the branches. Maneuvering obstacles. Crawling over old tires and logs and beer crates and shipping palettes and shopping carts – even through an old car – all strung up in the trees, way over my head behind the Carlsberg Brewery complex in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen. Klatreskoven is a high ropes course for all ages, a playground in the trees.
We first found Klatreskoven in the winter time, on a weekendly family discovery drive around town. Everyone drives down the famous Elephanten Gate at the historic Carlsberg Brewery. Those cement larger than life elephants are something to behold, even if you don’t drink Carl’s beer. Hang the second right past the elephants and follow the huge red brick building with the gold circles down to the right. You can’t miss it. At first it looks like a possible art installation – upcycling sorted garbage in a criss-crossing web through the branches. Wait – what does that sign say? Google translating as fast as my thumbs can type, we realize that it is a playground, a climbing course. Holy cats. Seriously – they let people up there? THAT IS WAY UP THERE! The childrens’ collective eyes grew and excitement mounted – “Can we do it? Can we do it!?” Er. Uh. (EEK) Alas it doesn’t open until spring.
Spring forward. Maj Day weekend. We’ve already celebrated our Danish solidarity on our free Friday off. The following Søndag was a beautiful spring day – sunny skies, mild weather – you might say – a blue bird day. Klatreskoven has pushed itself into the forefront of our littles’ subconscious again. “Can we do the ropes course? Please?” Umm. Uh. Ask Dad? For me… two things. First – I can’t do it with them for obvious reasons. Second – it kind of terrifies me. I had done some research online and translated that participants do wear helmets and harnesses and must have a safety orientation before beginning. There are also varying “levels” depending on one’s age, ability and height (most importantly). The top, highest, most precariously terrifying course is the Black course. Egad. Please no. Not that one. Ok.
As it turns out – our eldest wasn’t interested in scaling the ropes – so we did the most teenager-y of things – he and I went shopping. Dad took the subsequent two littles on their bikes cross-town to Frederiksberg and Klatreskoven. It was perfect. By the time I crutched my way from the bus stop there – my son and daughter had confidently maneuvered the first path of the course and any insecurity on their part that I may have perceived as a safety issue had been worked through. They were having a ball. It was impressive watching them unhook and re-hook the double safety system between each obstacle. My husband reassured me that they are never unattached preventing any potential plummeting to the ground. Are you sure? Yes. I’m sure. Sure?! Sure.
At one point, my wee lass had followed big brother (of course, why wouldn’t she?) onto a course above her level. In the original orientation, she had been relegated to the “blue” course and suddenly realized while waiting on the platform about 20’ up that this was the harder “red” course from the red ties around the trees. Unfortunately the paths move in one consistent direction and people were continuing to progress behind her – there was no turning around. Dad assured her (and me) after a quick assessment where this new path would take her, that she could proceed forward. Her slow, calculated, determined progression was a sight to behold, especially for the nervous mother neck straining looking up from below. Watching her carefully work through where the next step would be, how she would not tangle herself from the harness, how to reach that slightly higher ring. I had to let go. She had to do it. I could not help. Neither could Dad. It was freedom. For her and for me. (I’m a little verklempt actually writing about it actually.)
Copenhagen has afforded my children much freedom. And I feel so very fortunate that for a city this large and this European and this cosmopolitan – it is so very ok to let them have it. It is safe here. Leave your babies sleeping outside in the enormous pram on the sidewalk while you sip, eat, shop. Yes. I am not naive that things can happen. Believe me. It has been a process to afford them the same opportunities allowed Danish children, the same freedom. I blame a little bit of it on my American bred fear-based conditioning. We put our children in bubbles for fear of what might happen. But when the nightly news shows you images of your worst fears occurring time and again, it is no wonder why we are all “nervous Nellies.” But why aren’t the Danes?
Yesterday was the 4th of Maj. In our house this date always conjures Star Wars references – May the 4th be with you and a possible showing of one of the franchise movies. Take him to you I will (Oh sorry, that’s my favorite.) But here in Denmark – this day has a much different connotation. It is a day of freedom – an end to the 5-year occupation of Nazi Germany during World War II. A day when blackout shades were torn down and thrown out and windows all over the city slowly lit up with candles showing the light again. It was over. They were free. Queen Margrethe celebrated the 70th anniversary of the occasion at Mindenlunden i Ryvangen (Ryvangen Memorial Park) – the historic site where Danish resistance members were executed and buried so many years ago. There were candle lit parades around town filled with generations of people who may not have even been alive in 1945, but the stories from FarMor and MorFar (grandparents) have had lasting impact. Never forget. Light your candles. Remember our freedom.
It made me wonder, as my daughter lit every candle we have in every window of our 5th floor flat (nearing fire-hazard levels, despite the excellent hygge up in there) how was it that Danes remember the light, but have been able to let go of the dark. They had to know fear. I cannot begin to pretend to know what it was like to live under an oppressive occupying force in my own country. As an American, I know that our fear during that time was somewhat different – sending our young men into the fray and worrying about their safe return. My paternal Grandpa was one of those forces. A pilot, based in England, flying B-17 bombers over Germany. He did return. Thankfully for our family. My Grandma, in her inability to celebrate him as one of the “Greatest Generation,” passed on her fear – not directly expressed, but translated clearly. His experience was not to be discussed, talked about, lauded over. That was a terrible time and it was past. Maybe that is how the Danes have moved on. I can only guess.
What living in Denmark in 2015 has definitely taught me, in six short months, is that there is freedom in letting go. See the light. See it in your children’s faces as they confront their own challenge and succeed. Now I’m all verklempt again. It isn’t easy. It is pushing me as well – outside of my comfort zone. This is not the bubble. Being mobility impaired has proved an unlikely catalyst – I simply can’t do as much for them. But they were ready to step up. Ready to tip on the tightrope. Ready for the challenge. For this we are all expanding. Freedom.