The elementary school I used to go to had not one, not two, but three playgrounds behind it: one for kindergarteners, another for first, second, and third graders, and the last for fourth and fifth graders. When I went there, the best part of the day was spent on those playgrounds during recess; it was when my friends and I had the most fun. We would pretend to be Power Rangers, Sailor Scouts, and superheroes. We would compete to see who could swing the highest, and who could run up the slide.
I was never the most athletic kid.
…and I’ve always had a fear of heights. Or falling from great heights. Doesn’t matter which way you look at it; I didn’t like being too high up off the ground.
But I had some great times on those playgrounds. I loved swinging on the swings, jumping with the jump rope, going down the slides. I liked playing with the other kids, and pretending to be characters I looked up to. It was my favorite place to be, besides the library.
In kindergarten, I had a small wedding on the smallest of the playgrounds. And I made friends with a girl who scraped her knee, after jumping off a swing.
In second grade, I scraped my knee from jumping off a different set of swings, with the same girl I made friends with two years prior; and I kissed a boy on the cheek. Everyone who saw thought it was cute. I thought it was totally scandalous.
In fourth grade, a girl told me that I had a fat ass, just like my mother…which was funny, since she’d never seen my mother before. I yelled that her name was stupid, kicked rocks in her direction, and twisted my ankle—all within a couple of minutes.
And even after I left that school, I’d go back. A couple times with my dad and younger siblings, but mostly with the friends I made in middle school. We’d go back to that place, and talk on the swings.
I tried weed for the first time on the play set for first, second, and third graders, with my two best friends at the time. It didn’t do much…I still don’t think that I did it right.
Sometimes, I went back to those playgrounds after school with friends, and sometimes we’d stay there until the sky was black, and all you could see was a sky full of stars. I shared secrets under the play sets, and laughed until I couldn’t breathe on top of them. I even went back to that place after I graduated high school, and again when I came back home from college.
So it was hard to hear when I was told that it was all gone.
It felt like an era was over…like my childhood was over. I wouldn’t be able to take my future boyfriend there, or my future kids there, and tell them about all the experiences I had at the place that was essentially a safe haven. I wouldn’t be able to go back with Jeanette and Alyssa, who I’d gone there with on countless occasions. I wouldn’t be able to go there at all, because nothing would be there for me. The last symbol of my childhood was gone.
But I don’t need the physical place to be there to remember. I don’t need to go down the slide, or pump my legs back and forth on the swings, to remember all the days spent on those grounds with my friends; laughing over the most ridiculous things, as well as crying over serious life events. I had the memories.
Those playgrounds took up a place in my life that never really felt significant…until I was forced to process everything that’s happened. I am grateful to have been a part of this community, and to have a place, other than home, to consider my safe haven.
So, thank you, Brentwood. You’ve given me a lifetime of memories, and a handful of friends, that I will never forget.
Prompt: A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.