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Saying Goodbye To A Neighborhood Friend

Well, I thought we were finished with saying goodbyes this year, but apparently the year’s not over yet.

At least this time, it’s not a person, but a place.

One of the reasons we bought our house was its close proximity to a neighborhood park – two short blocks. I spent nearly every day those first few years walking those two blocks at least once a day. Cora learned how to, well, everything on that playground, and for the past five years it’s been the girls’ go-to spot. As they’ve gotten older we’ve gone from me scampering over the equipment with the girls, to a posse of kids running wild together as parents sit on the sidelines. Just a few weeks ago we met up there for one last hangout with a friend who was moving, and Maddie and her friends sequestered themselves in a secluded spot to giggle and sing away from the ‘rents. When Maddie was in school and Cora was still home, Cora and I would walk over there nearly every day after dropping Maddie off, and play on it, just the two of us. Cora would beg Daddy to head to the playground on the weekend, and they’d go crazy for a couple hours at a time.

But yesterday, it was torn down.

I had no idea this was happening until a friend of mine posted something about it on Facebook. And within 24 hours, the whole thing was razed. I broke the news to the girls at school pick-up yesterday and they insisted on biking past the empty park on the way home.

Cora stared in silence for a few minutes, then said tightly, “Can we just go home now? I want to go HOME!”

She pedaled furiously the whole way home, and held back her tears until we got into the garage. By the time she threw herself on the couch she was sobbing furiously.

I silently walked to the freezer, got out the emergency bag of homemade cookies, and gently herded my kids upstairs. We snuggled in my bed, sobbing and eating cookies and reminiscing about the park.

Maddie was really ticked off- she’s convinced the Parks and Recs people are just doing this to be mean. Cora doesn’t understand why people tear something down JUST BECAUSE IT’S OLD. I let them rant for a while, not even trying to counter their arguments, until they ran down tiredly.

We’ve done a couple things to try to put this in context. I told the girls it’s ok to grieve, and they told some of their favorite stories about fun times on the playground. We’ve looked at the blueprints online and imagined what the new playground will look like. And we called the city to find out WHY the playground was torn down, and to make sure they were recycling the old one (this was Cora’s demand).

At one point in her sobbing, Cora confessed that she was sad the playground was gone because it had some great memories of our friends who moved away this summer “and now I’m afraid I’ll forget them!”

I can’t blame the girls: I’m famous for hating change, for clinging tightly to the past when there’s nothing I can do about the inevitable movement forward. I see myself in them, and empathize deeply. When I saw the Big Twisty Slide lying ignobly on its side I almost started crying: this was the place Maddie conquered one of her first fears and learned to try something scary, and the place Cora and I would “hide” for several minutes at a time and pretend we weren’t on the playground in case anyone else would come by.

Playground, we’ll miss you.


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