Wednesday, January 18, 2012


     “Okay kids, are you ready for some fun?”
     “Yes!” shouted Judy and Harry from the back seat.
     Marvin was excited, too. This was the first time in fifteen years that he visited his old neighborhood and he couldn’t wait to show his kids where he used to play. Some of his best childhood memories came from this park, and he still hasn’t found another playground that looked half as fun as the one they were about to see.
     “Tell us about it again, Daddy,” begged little Harry.
     “Well, there’s a super tall slide, and a merry-go-round and see-saws longer than our car—nothing like that lame playground by our house.” Secretly, Marvin couldn’t wait to take a ride down that slide again himself. It always scared him to climb to the top, but the rush of adrenaline was worth it. “And here we are!”
     Marvin parked the station wagon in a gravel parking lot and they all jumped out. The children followed as he led them down a windy trail through some trees that opened up into a wide field.
     Marvin pulled a branch aside for the big reveal. “Ta-da! Wait, what the—“
     “This looks just like the park back home, Daddy,” said little Judy.
     Sure enough, the small manufactured playset that stood before them had tiny plastic stairs, a tiny plastic slide and a tiny rubber bridge that looked identical to every other playground in their neighborhood.
     “That slide isn’t very big,” said Harry, stomping his feet.
     “I don’t get it.” Marvin blinked his eyes and looked around. Maybe he took a wrong turn somewhere. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said to a woman pushing a stroller nearby. “Do you know what happened to the playground?”
     “It’s right there,” she said, pointing toward the plastic monstrosity.
     “No, no.” Marvin shook his head. “I mean the real playground. There used to be a humongous slide and a merry-go-round and see-saws—“
     “Oh, they tore down that deathtrap years ago,” she said, checking her baby. “Our neighborhood association determined it to be unsafe and rallied to have everything replaced. Thank goodness, too. It was only a matter of time before someone was killed from all those safety hazards.”
     “That’s ridiculous,” said Marvin. “That was the best playground ever! I used to play on it all the time and I turned out fine.”
     The woman looked up from her baby and let out a gasp. “Well, sir, you may want to endanger your own life, but I can’t believe any sensible person would let their kids near a merry-go-round or a hard metal slide taller than a house. And the see-saws… can you imagine a child sticking his head under one of those things?”
     I’d like to stick your head under one of those things, thought Marvin, but he remembered his children and kept the comment to himself as the woman marched away.
     Judy tugged at his sleeve. “Is the playground going to hurt us, Daddy?”
     “No dear,” he said. “The playground won’t hurt you.”
     Marvin looked up again at what had become of his childhood and felt a deep sense of nostalgia. He remembered climbing up the long ladder as the whole slide wobbled, burning his legs on the hot metal on the ride down and scraping his palms and knees on the landing. He remembered running around the merry-go-round and hopping on at the fastest speed, sometimes bashing his head against the metal handles. Oh, if he had a nickel for ever time he twisted his ankle jumping off! And the see-saws—he could have ridden them all day. Of course, one of his friends would usually jump off the other end when he was at the highest point, causing his seat to crash into the ground. It always bruised his tailbone and twice caused him to knock out a tooth on the handle. He remembered the laughs, the tears and the blood—something his children would never be able to experience.
     Marvin wiped away a tear and took Judy and Harry by the hand. “Come on, guys. Maybe I can at least show you the abandoned mill where I used to play.”
     “The one with all the saws and electric cables?” asked Harry.
     “That’s the one,” said Marvin, determined to help his kids build some character.


  1. ode to playgrounds and the great memories we won't be able to pass down to our children.