The most amazing thing happened to me today. I got COLD. At first this sensation of being ‘not-hot’ startled me. I had a moment of panic as I stepped outside this morning- thinking, “Oh no! I’m…I’m…chilly! What do I do?! Sweaters? Pants? Scarves? Does Ezra need his puffy jacket and maybe a hat? Socks? Sneakers?” It was like I’d forgotten how to function if the air around me wasn’t a sizzling 105 degrees. (It was a cool 70)… I stood motionless in indecision.
I recovered quickly and realized this cool air I was feeling was not “bundle up” worthy, but it was the kind of weather I had been constantly hoping for… silently begging the weatherman each night to fill my TV screen with something other than triple digits and dancing suns. “Looks like it’s gonna be another scorcher out there!” has become my LEAST FAVORITE expression in the English language. I would rather hear “Those terrible radioactive monsters have broken free from their cages and are in your neighborhood!” than hear “Looks like it’s gonna be another scorcher out there!” one more time.
I stood on my front porch and gazed up at the sky in disbelief. I had forgotten what cool air felt like. Seriously. I suddenly felt like I lived by the ocean again… I could almost hear the waves and smell the salt. I breathed deeply and felt truly thankful. I scrapped my plans of bookstore hopping and headed straight for the little park down the street. This was the first time Ezra and I had been able to go to our neighborhood park, because it had been so hot that the metal slides threatened to melt him before he got to the bottom.
The sky was full to the brim of those huge, bulbous clouds that make me feel really small. The sun cut through them every once in awhile and the rays instantly warmed me up just enough before they disappeared again. The park was completely empty. The grass was wet with dew and the sand from the playground stuck to Ezra’s shoes in clumps.
The little park was so quaint and it fit the mood of the day perfectly. It is just a little patch of land tucked away in the back of my neighborhood… obviously not top priority on the City’s Parks & Recreation agenda. Maybe it was the backdrop of the weather that made me feel so nostalgic, but I fell in love with this run-down little playground from the moment we stepped foot on it. The slides are crooked and rickety and have obviously been there since the 50’s when the neighborhood was built. The swing set is old and twisted and I could see four different colors of chipped off paint layers clinging to the metal. I thought of the moms before me who had lived in this neighborhood and tried so hard to keep this park nice and shiny for their kids- rallying together to paint the playground again and again and again…and again. But now all the equipment is a dull metal color, and it probably wouldn’t pass the safety code inspections even if you smothered everything in bubble wrap. There are bolts and screws sticking out of things and unrounded edges are everywhere…
And we loved it.
We had a blast. Who needs plastic “safety fortresses” for playgrounds? Give us metal and rust and danger! We laugh in the face of danger! ha ha ha!
This neighborhood is full of people who have lived in these homes for 30 or 40 years of their lives. They are older and their kids are grown and gone. But there are also people like us moving into this neighborhood, and it’s an amazing mixture of the old and new- the next generation stepping in and bringing new life to things. I’m beginning to understand the solemn weight I felt as an elderly woman walking her dogs stopped to wave and smile at Ezra as we were all outside working on the lawn yesterday. She paused and looked me straight in the eye and said simply, “Welcome to the neighborhood” before she continued on her way. Something in me felt that this phrase held some deep truth in it and I concentrated on the weed I was pulling while blinking back unexpected tears.
Maybe I’ll be the next mom to rally forces and re-paint the old playground. Maybe it will be the mom who lives next door. Either way, our kids will enjoy that park just as much as the kids before them did… sliding and laughing and climbing up towards the sky… unaware of the life they’re bringing to tired places.