Entry 7: The Playground: Sunday July 17
The church lot was full this morning. It looks like attendance is good at Resurrection, so I guess if there were any bad things or scandals, it must not have been too awful. Yesterday’s warning from the waitress was probably just local superstition. We didn’t attend the services though. Instead, I fixed breakfast for Donna and I, a Sunday tradition in our marriage, and we had a quiet meal together.
Later on we decided to take a walk through the neighborhood. Just a little weekend leg exercise. The neighborhood seems pretty typical. Small ranch style houses, even smaller yards. I noticed here you could lean out your window and practically touch your neighbor’s house. Some houses had garages, others kiddie pools. I noticed children playing in the street as we walked. Girls playing hopscotch, boys street football. It was then I realized there was no playground here. Kids were playing in the street because they had nowhere else. So what had the pastor meant about the playground?
When Donna and I returned to the house, the dog was back again. He wasn’t on the porch this time though. He was just on the edge of the woods that lined our “backyard”. Our lot is bigger than most of the others in the neighborhood. It stretches far behind the house, ending in a line of trees that separates the church property from the next neighborhood over. The dog stood under these trees watching us.
“You think maybe we need to call the pound about our friend?”
“No, I think he’s harmless, hon,” Donna replied. “Probably belongs to someone around here.”
I looked at the dog. He wasn’t big, just an average size animal. A little bit taller than my knee and seemingly well fed. His coat was tan and a little mangy, as if he’d been crawling through brush and bramble.
“She says you’re okay,” I called out to him, before following my wife inside. But as I took a bottle of spring water from the refrigerator, something about the dog began to nag me.
“Honey, I’ll be back in a minute.” I went out the back door and there he was, still standing at the woods’ edge. He looked right at me, barked once, and then wandered into the woods. A little voice in my head said, ‘follow the dog.’
He went through the brush, and I followed, shoving vines and stickers out of my way as I went. We emerged onto an old trail that went in two directions. Each way disappeared around a bend. The dog went left and I was right behind him. The trail had grown over in places. I could tell nobody used this path much anymore, except maybe rabbits and dogs.
He kept a good pace. I picked mine up a little in an effort to catch up to him, but the faster I walked, the quicker he trotted ahead. He disappeared around a curve in the path and when I came around it, I noticed the trail had ended in a small clearing. But the dog was nowhere to be seen.
The clearing was dotted with clumps of bushes and brush. Vines and kudzu hung from trees, creating canopies in which you could almost hide. In the middle stood a gazebo, grown over with all this foliage. I stepped under it to get a closer look at its framework, but looking more closely, i discovered it wasn’t a gazebo at all. It was a jungle gym, what we as children called ‘monkey bars’.
I looked around the clearing. I approached what I had first thought was just a clump of bushes. It wasn’t. Closer inspection revealed it to be pieces of a swing set, discarded and left to be swallowed up by nature. And not far from it, the bare remains of a sandbox pit, now hidden by weeds. Suddenly it hit me. I’d found the playground.
I heard the dog’s bark behind me. I turned around and there he was, sitting on his haunches in front of something half hidden by a thick stand of trees. I walked over and the dog moved away, keeping its distance. He’d been sitting in front of an old sliding board. A covering of vines and leaves had protected most of its surface it seemed. The steps were rusted, but the slide itself still had a little shine left to it. I could see there were words etched in the metal, most likely carved by kids with pocketknives, rocks, or some other sharp instrument. “Billy Cobb is a loser,” read one. “Jason was here” declared another. At the bottom of the slide a scratched-in confession read “Tommy + Mischa” and I smiled at these mementos from someone else’s childhood.
For a moment, I stopped to wonder what their lives had been like. I imagined at one time this was a popular place to play. But it sure didn’t look like kids played here anymore. It had been abandoned for a long time, left here for the woods to swallow up and claim.
So, now I have to ask myself, why is it here like this, forgotten and unused?
I don’t know, but I aim to find out.
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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.
Original text copyright 2007.
10th Anniversary Edition 2017.