After all these years it all still looks the same. The grass is still as green and uncut as it was before. The broken up dirt road still winds up to the park with just as many loose pebbles as the first time I saw it. The trees, still tall and strong, surround the area of play, with their long strenuous arms drooping down as if they were personally reaching out to you. Leaves, hundreds of them protrude from branches, all shapes, all sizes, creating large shadows in the sun showing just how colossal it's beholders body truly is. The remnants of nests still dangle in the nooks of the trees whenever the wind blows, leaving evidence of it's residents past. They stand guard to a park. This enclosed circular area of innocence, where many a children have come and gone. When you enter, the baby swings are to your right. So many times I have seen before a wobbly little smushed baby being placed in the seat. Their face confused, unknowing what to expect, immediately transforms into this huge giggling smile when their parent begins to rock the swing back and forth. Back and forth they go as they listen to the squeak of the rusty chains supporting their seat. You walk a little more and there's a hop scotch game painted on the floor. Numbers 1-10 staring at you in different colors. It's here where I learned how to count, how to take turns when playing in a group. Two old wooden benches sit in the corner next to the merry go round. There are 5 seats, each carved to resemble a different animal. I always personally loved the duck. Each seat sits about 1 foot above the ground. Although to a child no more then 3 feet, the distance can seem a lot higher. You get pushed around and around, at first you're a little nervous but then the thrill of it gets to you and you just want to go faster and faster. Mind you there's nothing stopping you from falling off, but you don't care. You've learned to get over fears. To do what you think you cannot, because in the end you can. Now you're a little older, a little taller. Tall enough to step up onto the large wooden platform that leads you into the jungle gym. There are two ways to get across. You can run over this long red bridge, that shakes with each step you take. Or you can test your strength in body and mind, and use the monkey bars. When I first grasped on to the handles I can remember feeling the coolness of it's metal on my skin. There were exactly 8 bars to get across and nothing to support you if you fell. Before I went on, I tested how I should swing across, grasping onto one bar, keeping my feet securely planted to the ground at which I stood. When I was a little more comfortable I practiced swinging on that one bar with my feet kicking in the air. Then I finally managed to get all the way across. A defiant grin passes along each child's face as they look behind them and see the distance they have swung across. With a fierce rush of invincibility they run up the aged wooden steps that lead to a slide, the only slide in the whole park. It's this massive metal tube that twists and turns as you go down it. Starting 10 feet off the ground, it's wide enough to seat one and that's great because most want to venture off on their own at this point anyway. There's a pole right above the slide that most like to, just as I did before, grab onto, step back and then thrust themselves into the opening of the slide, allowing them to slide with additional speed. Going down, as the slide hugs your body, you can see the whole park before you, everything you've played on at least a million times before. Everything except this one last thing. You get off the slide with this extreme rush and enough dizziness to prevent you from standing up straight. I should know, it feels amazing. You hobble your way over to the last unit in the whole park. The big swings. You sit on one and look across at the baby swings, admiring at how far you've come. You push your self back, kick yourself forward, repeating the same process over and over again. Each time you go a little bit higher, a little bit closer to the trees, a little closer to the sun. High enough to see the clouds, high enough to feel the warmth of the sun's rays. High enough to touch the leaves as they watch over you. Then you feel, like I felt, that you've done this so many times before you're sick of it. You've learned, done, and conquered everything there is to and you're getting just a bit too old for it all. So you jump off the swing mid air and run over to area where everyone plays kickball. The outline of a field and bases have been permanently painted on the uneven concrete floor. I played many a games here. Most of them were won, others were lost. I learned to embrace victory and how to accept failure. I learned team work and strategy. Each time I fell and scraped my knee, I learned how to get over the pain, because there is always pain when you're playing the game. Then eventually, like everything else, you move on. There's nothing left for you to do in this park. All the kids you've grown up with, all the time's you've shared are gone. There's no need for you to be here anymore. So you turn around and take one last glance of all you've done. The baby swings seem so lame, the merry go round not as large nor as tall. The jungle gym, you realize is not even 3 feet off the ground and you can now use your long legs to walk across it, in under 5 large steps. Your taller then the monkey bars and tall enough to touch the peak of the slide. The bigger swings just sit there in their squeakiness as you watch them and realize you're too old to swing anymore. And finally you look at where you stand, the kick ball area. No one is there anymore and you say to yourself that you shouldn't be either. Then you leave . You watch the large trees as you pass them by. They no longer seem strong, but aged, no longer reaching out to you but wilting, as if dying, almost sad to see you leave. You walk down the path, past the grass and go on your way. The park was there for me through all of the most innocent stages of my life, as they were for many before me. I would like to say that all the obstacles in the park prepared for the real life that lied ahead, but it didn't. It only gave me a glimpse of what I was going to soon experience, because we all know that life is not as enclosed or secure. It's not as familiar as the park that I have never seen change once in all 16 years of my life that I have lived here in Parkchester. Life is a bunch of laughs, giggles, risks, thrills, twists, turns and pains thrown together into a large and unpredictable fashion. You just have to take what you've learned and hope that you'll be ok.
A Place of Importance To Me
February 8, 2009