Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Playground

My then-husband and I moved into this house in 1999, I think.  It's been a while.  An old lady lived next to us - she was nice.  No one else talked to us.

Then I got pregnant.  The other kooky old lady behind us talked to me.  Twice.  Just twice.

Then I had the babies.  People looked but not a lot of neighbors talked to us.

As they grew, we started hanging out at our local playground, about a block from my house.  Still, no one talked to me.

Then someone did.  And more people started to talk.  Our neighbor, Heli, was like the pied piper of moms in need of friends.  She talked to everyone and suddenly people started to know each other.

It didn't matter if it was raining out.  We went to the playground and played in puddles.  When it was nice we went and played.  When it snowed (and I wasn't bitchy about it), we played.  I knew all my neighbors.  We helped each other.  We talked.  It was pretty unusual.  Let me give you some examples:

The day my house was burglarized, I went to the playground (once we realized all were safe and the police dogs left).  Some neighbors took my kids and fed them dinner.  Others took my ex and me and fed us while still others fixed the house so no one else could get in.  I felt Amish that day.

The day after I was diagnosed with a brain tumor (this was still in the holy shit! you're gonna die time), I went to the playground and got all the help I needed to make sure my kids could still go to dance class and keep a normal schedule while I was being treated (lucky for me we only needed some of that help - I never did have surgery and I'm still here).

We had parties.  Lots of parties in the park.  Some were birthday - open to anyone there.  Some were Fourth of July.  Some were chili cook offs.  Some were what the hell parties. We had pumpkin carving contests.  Scavenger hunts.  All were good.

My kids learned to roller skate and ride bikes in the tennis courts.  They learned to slide down the fireman's pole eventually and even make their way across the monkey bars.  More neighbors would join in.  We took care of each other's kids and knew each other's families.  It was an important place in our lives.

One day, I was talking with a dad about how kids don't break bones so easily - they're kind of pliable.  Just as I'm giving my reason for thinking this, M falls from the top of the slide and lands on her stomach and arm, knocking the wind out of her.  That was an interesting trip to the ER.  Yes, her arm is broken.  Oops, no it's not.  Such a pain in the ass.

Shortly after that it was A's turn.  Gee, I wonder what happens if I swing high on these swings and do it with no hands......who thinks that??  A, that's who.  The answer is another trip to the ER.  This time it really was a broken bone.  Even more of a pain in the ass.

We've had two children die in the time I've lived here.  There are memorials in the park - a bench for one and a decorated tree for the other.  Those memories will remain there.

Now the playground is gone.  Closed.  Fenced off.  For about two years it will be closed.  It will be renovated - made new, bigger and better.  I'm sure it will be fun and a better fit for the kids who are now too big for the small equipment that was the center of the old playground.  But my girls and I feel sad for the playground we knew.  We will miss it.

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