When I was a little girl, from the moment I stepped out of bed, I would be off and running to the neighborhood park. Paddock Park was my daily trip to the moon. Some of my most cherished memories are of Paddock, and I have often dreamed of the day I would pass the memories down to my children.
I was all but a glimpse to my mother as I scurried past her to my treasured Huffy, pink with sapphire trim. Paddock was a straight shot from my house. My pedaling, impatient and frenzied, reflected my anticipation. Paddock could be heard before it could be seen, and the sounds of merriment tortured my impending arrival. Then, to quote my father, I erupted onto the scene!
Circular in shape and surrounded by trees, Paddock centered our community. Linked chains in hand, black vinyl hugging my bum, I was hell-bent on reaching the sky’s ceiling and bringing a cloud or two back down with me. The Wiggle and the Drop were the slides of choice. By process of elimination, my choice was reserved exclusively to the Wiggle, at least until the day I overcame my fear of injury-by-high-velocity-impact. Agony of many defeats, can best describe my experiences with the monkey bars. They were so adventure-like, with the crocodiles waylaying below, snapping at my most awesome Reebok’s. Alas, my hands always proved too dainty to support the weight of my tiny frame, and I would fall prey to the snapping reptiles with regularity. When fatigued, I’d plod over to The Shack, Paddock’s concession stand. Not as much a shack as it was a hellish sweat-box insulated by blocks of cinder. Its searing aluminum counter, free of shade, was just one of its many aesthetic features. We would approach as a group lured by the aroma of hot-dogs enchanting the park breeze, but just as any child given freedom of choice, we chose candy. One of my favorites, the Fun Dip, provided me with just enough sugar to keep up a dizzying pace for several more hours of Paddock-Time. Eventually the setting sun would warn us dinnertime was near. Exhaustion would overwhelm me before I could reach my front door. I could only take solace knowing I would fully reinvigorate by the next morn in time for another day of Paddock Magic.
I recently returned to Paddock Park after many years away from home. I wanted to share my memories with my son Jet with hope he can make them his own. Although it is still called Paddock Park, now aged and desolate, it is clearly not the same place. Parents are no longer comfortable letting their children run free for the day. The neighborly feel to the community, that once was commonplace, was now nonexistent. I can’t help feel as though Jet is missing out. I feel compelled to recreate those moments for him, but I know it could never be the same. Even The Shack has been reduced to a storage shed for sporting equipment. Nothing can take my fond memories away, but Paddock now, has become a bitter reminder how the world has changed.