January 10, 2004
What was there is no longer existing. Maybe the arsenic covered wood has rotted from its suicidal poisons, having received the death sentence for its carcinogen crimes. It was sentenced for more then one count of murder on its conscience, its own demise, and the lonesome grave of my past memories. Somewhere, it is seeping into the solid Earth those toxins at an abandoned junkyard, its last resting place for all eternity, forgotten by all but me. New generations have no recollection of that tall wooden playground. Its battered yellow cloth caps, the always dilapidated swinging bridge, and the spaciousness of all the nooks and crannies it could muster do not delight the grounds anymore. It was so young! Unless seven years is pretty old for a playground.
What started as a trip down memory lane, my friend, and I hopped in her car and headed toward the Saint Pius X playground. We went up over the hill and to my dismay I saw it. The horror! The horror! It was missing. Call the milk cartons! Yet somehow I knew that no milk carton could bring back my playground. No special 1-800 number was going to find it lost, cold, and alone. It was gone forever. I recalled a report I heard earlier in the week, saying that arsenic coated wood, which was practically every piece of wood manufactured to date, caused cancer in some sort of laboratory animal. I know they killed it for its potential harm. Still, I wept in sorrow over my loss. A part of me had died everlastingly; only to be relived in sweet memory and dust covered yearbooks.
Why did I love that good old playground so much? I lived in solitude upon it; I relinquished my emotions upon it (must have cried 100,000 tears upon it), gotten numerous cuts and bruises upon it. Had friends made, and had friends betrayed upon it. Had found my purpose, my place, and my dreams upon it. Had found that paradoxical twist of happiness upon it. It was my best friend. No matter what went wrong, no matter what happened, I could always go to that constant friend waiting for me to sit in the covered cabin, from the cruel, cold and outside world. I could go home without traveling much, build my imaginary borders within the cedar chips and the low ceilings, and read magnificent literature without the discomfort of the cramped library.
Like the playground, the ghosts of the past haunt me still. I mostly hung out with the little kids, no one else my age wanted my companionship except that darned playground. I always ended coming to it with my problems, my sorrows, my joys, and it was the only one who cared that I answered the right amount of jelly beans at the Valentine's Day party. I remember the names, the faces, and good times I had with my other friends there. Those other friends came and went, but the playground was constant. Still, I remember those younger kids; they are the spirits of innocent memories left forever every time I think about the playground. While my wooden companion was dying, I started leaving it in the dust for the lost children from my past. Unbelievably I started making friends with humans. One of these lost kids who weaned me off the playground goes to my youth group. We still talk about the good times there, when certain people fell off certain curvy slides for instance, and we recall our numerous conversations on it discussing middle school life, as well as what we wanted to do with our lives. I mentioned to him one time about the death of our playground, and he replied that it broke his heart. Yet talking to him about it reminded me of everything I did there, everything I ever went though, and everything I felt growing up in the arms of the playground, even losing and finding forgotten hidden treasures.
I found "love" on that playground, in the form of a ring with two hearts and on it printed twice, "LOVE." I assumed it was made in the 1960's since I had dug it up and the school was a junkyard before it was built; yet it was sterling silver. I wore it constantly on my middle finger as a sign of the buried treasure hidden under that stack of wood and broken cedar flooring. Not only did I find this piece of jewelry, I lost many pieces on it. My Cinderella glass-slipper necklace, countless earring backings, and two earrings. Recently I started wearing many rings, sort of like a trademark because I needed a style of my own. After years of rest, I put the LOVE ring back on my hand; the only finger it fit was my right pinky. Playing Frisbee in the church courtyard this past year at youth group, I lost the ring; it slipped off my pinky and could not be found. The cycle continued, of gaining and misplacing, still on the same grounds as before. I wonder now if it is still there, waiting for its rightful owner, going to be buried by time itself, to be found by another treasure hunter, and be a physical reminder of yesteryear, like this ring was to me.
Yesteryear is where I belong and thanks to the noble playground I have found that answer. I love old things such as antiques and classical literature. Aged books which smell of wisdom of the scholars and old things have taught me the appreciation of one's predecessors. History is very interesting to me, even though it is everyone's bygone era. There to me is nothing cooler then a Eighteenth century English countryside mansion on the Moors, exactly like Wuthering Heights, except with three black horses, Link, Epona, and Zelda, with lots of roses and flowers, and all the interior antique mahogany. If I had to define myself by this, I would not be myself without my past. I needed every minute on that playground to be able to be my literary self, my historical self, and my at times eccentric self. I learned so much from that playground, survival skills, verbal skills, and how-to-push-the-tire-swing skills. Trapped within that childhood bliss was me in seven years, a senior bound for something more. I would not have gotten there without the battered yellow cloth caps, and the rusted dedication plaque, and lastly that carcinogen arsenic-coated wood which causes cancer in some laboratory animals. I only hope our faithful playground did not die in vain.