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a child in the park

this was no ordinary park, mind you: there were no swings or children laughing; there were different children there. There was recreation: tennis, the pool, and a maze of streets for bicycles and long walks; surrounded by rows of prefabricated homes, each with one little palm tree by the driveway.
People drove golf carts around in the park, or large tricycles, or older couples would walk together just as it was beginning to turn to dusk and long shadows from tree-tops cris-crossed over the streets. In the afternoons, the women in the pool would wear hats and sunglasses, lean against the sides, swing legs in the warm water.
I remember the summer afternoons when it rained in Florida, and after the rain I would go out in the puddles in my roller skates, skate through them, feet soaking wet.
There was even a street named after me in the park, and at the end of Jan Drive there was a pond. I spent hours there, playing imaginary games, pretending I was grown-up, feeding the ducks, watching the fish swim around near the rocks at my feet, looking for the turtles, listening to the wind.
Oh, I remember Mr. Whorall, how he would walk onto his driveway every time I was playing tennis across the street. He would watch me, tell me how I was getting better at the game every time he saw me. And there was also Mrs. Rogers, who lived up the street from me. She saw me riding my bicycle by one day just before Halloween. She invited me in to help carve a pumpkin. Every year she bought me a Christmas present. The sweetest woman. The most beautiful woman.
And there was Ira and Betty Wiggins, who lived on the next street, Sand Drive, with a sign in front of their house that said, “The Wiggins’ Wigwam.” They had a hammock on their porch, and art so beautiful, so colorful on their walls. They lived in Panama for years, he used to be a doctor. So many things collected from all their travel. They both knew so much, they both loved life. Once they saw me and asked if I wanted to catch a lion. They then went to the side of the road, and with a spoon pulled an ant lion from the top of a sand hill. So many secrets. Every night Ira could be found with cue holder, decorated with Panamanian art, at the pool table, playing my father, or another man who died years ago. I remember that man telling me that when I was younger he would watch me on Easter Sunday, me in my pastel dress, by myself, spinning, dancing in the streets. He remembered me dancing. This is his memory, how he thought of me.
And I remember the McKinleys, Pete and Lindy, another beautiful pair who talked of Mexico, of all the places they’d gone, all the things they had seen. So many times I would visit them just to hear them talk. And Pete would try to stump me with an intellectual riddle every time I sat with him; he would ask me about astronomy, what I had learned in my classes since the last time I visited the park. Sometimes they would take me to their country club, play on tennis courts made of clay, how strange it felt on my feet through my tennis shoes.
It was like another world there. The park was where I spent my Christmases, my Easters. I remember swimming in the pool, a week shy of thirteen, when my parents told me I was an aunt. Now I talk to my sister on the phone, she asks me if I remember so-and-so from Palos Avenue, from Blue Skys Drive. The couple that had the ornate rock garden in their front yard, or the snow shovel against their light post with the words “rust in peace” painted in white on the metal. Yes, I say, I remember them. Well, so-and-so passed away last week, she says. Heart attack. This is what it comes down to, I think, all these memories are slowly disappearing. So many memories. Where there are palm trees everywhere. It was my other world, my other life, another lifestyle, another everything. This was not an ordinary park, but the children were so much smarter, and still so full of life. So much to teach. So little time.




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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
on all art and all writings on this site completed
before 6/6/04. All rights reserved. No material
may be reprinted without express permission.

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