Parking My Life

By
Gazing at me from the heart of upper Manhattan, it stands verdantly with pure and wholesome eyes. Its gateways outlined in bulky, decayed brown stones blink unknowingly, tempting me with its familiar promise of a pleasing day no matter what mood I enter with. I begin to recognize the rocky walkways, which I know delineate the beginning of the park and only a few more blocks and two slight hills until the entrance to the bicycle lanes. I glance back at my parents to signal a change of gait and strike the underside of my right pedal to prepare for the first thrust with the left. As I coast past the black, twisting metal cages fortifying planted trees and holding “Please curb your dog,” signs; lush brownstones; and bright blue trash bags ready for collection, I spot the final crosswalk. I rest at the sidewalk, yearning for my parents to hurry to make the light while I briefly skim through the quotidian art sales populating upper 5th avenue. My parents barely reach the crosswalk in time, for the whimsical cab drivers are already restless and crawling forward into pedestrian area. To my chagrin, we stop, lingering for the next traffic delay, and I keep my face aimed away from my parents in a sophomoric attempt to emote my displeasure. I see yellow in the traffic light and begin to gear up as it turns red. As I see the red light and glance back at my parents as a semaphore, I surge ahead and careen past the gates and up the first hill until I identify the quirky helmets and bizarre spandex of the road bikers. Once my parents near, I release the brakes of my bike and gradually drift into the mouth of a pathway leading to, “The Lake.”

Every day in the summer and most weekends, I approached Central Park in the same fashion with the same alacrity. In my mind it was sacrosanct and a solace of any boredom; a place where I could flaunt my monkey-bar skills or conceive my dreams as a mountaineer by scaling five feet tall rocks and the Alice in Wonderland brass statue. I learned how to read and write, how to ride a bike with two wheels, how to stay up on rollerblades, how to catch a baseball, and how to order my own grilled cheese sandwich all in the same two square miles. It was the hub of my essential years when all I knew was idyllic, and I felt entitled to an excursion there whenever it corresponded with my wishes.

Central Park, probably the sole area in Manhattan that offers everything in one, provides a fertile setting for intellectuals, athletes, musicians, children, gluttons, shady conmen, vagabonds, and almost any other type of person. Its eclectic combination is mostly what awards it its eminent charm. A series of concrete paths, familiar murky ponds, flourishing lawns, and rustic bistros is what I recognize it as now. However, as a child I only saw popsicle stands, remote-controlled boats, untouched rocks, and long, dreary concerts my parents dragged me to. “The Lake”—actually a man-made four-foot deep pond—was my preferred destination unless, of course, it was winter and time to seek the best sledding hill. Shaped by a rim of curved stone and a black, gum-spotted concrete pathway; it’s surrounded by a sandbox, boathouse, café, a lawn, and a few significant literary sculptures. At 8 A.M, the air is fragile with a delicate mix of moisture and dryness that soothes you for the incoming heat. Usually quiet except for the sporadic sound of bashing dishes from the café, 8 A.M. was the time to lounge on a bench and gaze at the undulating waves. Once others began to arrive, so did the needy musicians, occasional wedding, tourists, and the cart crowded with over-priced, rentable miniature sailboats. To me this signifies the beginning of the day, and promptly, I walk over to the now open café while hearing the crunch of rejected acorns under my feet.
After ordering the regular, my grilled cheese sandwich, which was more like melted American cheese on a toasted Kaiser roll, I would journey to the brass Alice and Wonderland figure to validate that I was still the fastest at getting to and standing in the crook of her arm after scrambling up a large mushroom and weaving around two other creatures. With the metallic odor of brass on my hands indicating work done, I would usually walk to my parents—signaling that I was ready to play some soccer or to investigate the local skaters. However, my selfishness was not condoned, and I was usually left to entertain myself until they had finished their coffee. Sometimes the days were brief, other times I had to stay until an orchestra concert, but most times I always learned something new. As I would begin the walk home after whichever activity I ended up doing, the sensation of muscle pain would crescendo until it seized my attention. After being engrossed the entire day, I was usually impervious to the aftereffects until the end. I would rub by thumb against the inside of my fingers, sensing the familiar texture of arid dirt, but my regular conversation with my parents about the day’s accomplishments and challenges compensated for the all the negatives. During the frosty season, the spiny numbness of freezing snow on the tips of my limbs always made the walk home in the filth-coated slush mounds enjoyably unbearable.

Around my 11th birthday when I began 6th grade, these days that had offered a productive area for me to develop and explore my independence as a young child were no longer effectual. Playgrounds, toys, and bikes no longer had a place in my maturity, and I was presented with a quandary of how to define my new Central Park; how to determine what should help me flourish. As a pre-adolescent, Central Park lost its innocent eyes and quaint landscapes. Its ways of letting me dream of the future had been overpowered by the leaden reality revealed by maturity. During the course of middle school, Central Park’s image transformed into one for many students to overlook unless its unsupervised areas were exploited to conceal their illegal or wanton actions. It became a confidant of immoral secrets rather than a field for cultivation. However, what I realized I still needed to do was to establish the ethics that I value as an individual.
To conform to the path of some my peers was one selection; however, for my peers to squander the opportunities presented to them as a product of their affluence appeared as more of a drawback. Instead, I chose science, photography, music, and traveling to fill my time. I found myself uninterested in exploring parental limits, but rather interested in exploring other areas of the New York and the world. Instead, I only expanded my Central Park rather than narrowing my view to only the culture of upper Manhattan. Although I had been traveling internationally since I was four, it was difficult for me to appreciate these places when my maturity was centered on playful fun and simple, tasty foods. As a child, music and science seemed only another way to be entertained. Around age ten or eleven, my scope of these subjects broadened, and my parents’ actions in teaching me and bringing me to foreign places seemed more sensible. They only wanted me to be productive.





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