Sunday, March 11, 2012
A Tale of Two Playgrounds
Although its been a mild winter here in the northeast, today was the first Sunday since Fall of 2011 that temps managed to peak beyond sixty degrees. While this kind of weather may still require Angelinos to wear their uggs and/or floor length capes, around here it inspired Capital Region residents to dig their tank tops and sandals out of storage. You could hear a collective sigh of relief as Albany recognized that the worst of the winter is officially over (unless there is some freakish April Fool’s Day snowstorm, which is totally possible). This means our heating bills will go down and there is less likelihood that we will have a power outage, at least for the next three months or so. A true cause for celebration.
OUR family celebrated by spending most of the day outdoors. While I had only anticipated ONE nice, hour-or-so long mid-morning visit to a playground, I simply couldn’t deal with us being indoors on such a gorgeous day, so I took Em for a second post-nap visit to another playground in the afternoon. Em is a HUGE fan of the outdoors, and especially of playgrounds, so she didn’t put up any resistance.
Our two playground experiences were so vastly different.
Our morning excursion was to a beautiful all-wooden castle-like playground I have been admiring from afar ever since I was pregnant with Em. Its one of those playground which happens to be on the grounds of one of the area’s public schools, so I haven’t been sure if it is actually LEGAL for us to be on the premises. But as hubby put it, the worst case scenario would be that some Scrooge would tell us to get off the monkey bars. Big whoop.
When we got to the playground, it was empty (at 11:00 o’clock! On a beautiful Sunday!) but there was no gate preventing us from accessing it, and no sign that said non-students were to keep out, so our family rushed in like it was opening hour at Disney World.
The playground is A-MAZING. It totally lived up to my heightened expectations. It has toddler-appropriate swings, lots of slides, tons of climby things and SO MANY little nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered. And because it was just the three of us there, we were able to OWN the place. We played hide-and-go-seek, slid down the slide about 87 times, and climbed until our knees gave out on us. Even though hubs and I were both absolutely spent after being at the playground for an hour and a half, it was with a heavy heart that I left. I kind of want to LIVE there permanently. I could totally be the troll under the bridge, or the princess who lives in the castle turret…
Oh, yes, and Emmy enjoyed it too.
A few other families finally showed up, which made us happy, knowing we weren’t breaking any rules (or that if we were in fact breaking rules, we’d be scolded along with 4 other mamas and dadas, and 6 other children).
(SIDE NOTE: As we left the grounds, a little boy ran towards me, his arms wide open, practically jumping into my arms. With my mama instincts going full-throttle, I kneeled down and hugged the little one before I even had any time to think. His grandma approached and said “that’s what scares me about him.”
I laughed the awkwardness of the situation off, but it really made me kind of sad. Of course I know that it is NOT smart for little kids to run up to strangers and give out free hugs. I should probably NOT have encouraged the boy by hugging him back. But I’m just not the type of person who turns a cold shoulder to a child. And like I said, my body acted before my mind had time to intervene. It makes me upset that a child’s friendliness and willingness to hug a stranger should be seen as scary or nerve wracking, but of course I understand the grandmother’s reasoning. I just wish the world weren’t so screwed up, so we wouldn’t have to go around being so freakin’ scared all the time.)
Post-nap playground was a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax. Em and I visited our “go to” playground, located in a pretty popular and conveniently located town park. My word, it seemed like EVERYONE and their mother, cousin, dog, and dog TRAINER were at that playground. To see it, you would have thought that all of Upstate New York has only one playground to share. It was simply out of control. Moms were searching for their lost children. Big kids were running around knocking over small kids. Sand was being thrown. Intergenerational arguments were breaking out left and right.
Emmy and I stood at the edge of the playground, observing the chaos like it was Ringling, Barnum and Bailey (it really WAS a circus). And then Em said “no”, and turned around, leading me with her little fingers to the field of grass that surrounds the play area. There, in the relative calm of a less congested environment, we rolled around in the dirt, drew pictures with sticks in the ground, and made ourselves grass moustaches. After that we walked around and said hello to the birds and the doggies that were hanging out around the perimeter of the park. So we had a great time, we just never actually played ON the playground. To do that would have been madness.
All in all, it was a marvelous day. It was the kind of day I have waited for all winter. And the best part about it is that there are three seasons of days like this ahead, and we won’t have to have a playground-less weekend for months and months to come.