Return to the Playground

When the boys were little, we spent many mornings at the park. It’s where I made my first friends in our then-new hometown. So, it was a little strange when, after not going for a few years, my ten-year-old son and niece veered in while walking the dog.

They climbed, “Count how long it takes me!”…

…and swung, “Come on! Higher!”…

…and spun each other around, “Faster! Faster! No, stop! Stop! Stop!”…

The dog and I followed the path encircling the playground equipment. It brought back  memories of trailing my sons on their tricycles as they rode along that same path. Of moving from one side of the playground to the other, as they did, to make sure I was close enough in case they fell, got stuck, got their feelings hurt. Of standing, eating cold green grapes, next to the big tree they all loved to climb.

I walk past the park almost daily, but a ten-year-old body at play makes the playground look a miniature version of the one in my memory. Had my teenagers been with us, I imagine it would have seemed even smaller. You can get anywhere in a few quick steps. See everything from any bench.

Apparently, I didn’t need to follow so close back then. It would never dawn on me now to interrupt their play with “Not so fast!” “Not too far!” “Don’t jump off that…”

So, as the dog and I wandered, they happily climbed and swung and spun and squealed at each other.

And when we got home, my ten-year-old threw up all over the carpet. Too much spinning, but still the best part of his day.

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What To Bring When You Run Away

A gray plastic sword, dented, from an old Halloween knight costume. Blue blankie. His shiny black treasure box, probably with a few dollars in it. The mozzarella and tomato sandwich I made him for lunch.

This morning, I learned what my ten-year-old would pack if he were running away.

“I’m leaving forever!” he screamed, brushing past me, sword in hand.

“Or…” he pointed dramatically to the basement stairs, “until he is gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. I never want to see him again!”

The boys had apparently had a fight.

“I’m out of here!” he yelled even louder, stuffing blue blankie into his backpack before glaring back up at me, “How far do you think a ten-year-old can get? Huh? Huh? How far?”

I sighed, “Not very far.”

So, he ran into the garage, grabbed his electric scooter, and took a lap around the block, yelling over his shoulder. “I’m leaving forever!”

I heard the garage door closing about a minute later. The runaway returned.

“Time for school, honey.”

“Fine!”

Out came the sword, blue blankie, and the treasure box. He stomped them back up to his room. Then, backpack zipped, he climbed into the car as if nothing had happened.

It was his silent teenage brother who still fumed.