This Is My Park
When I moved from Manhattan to my current neighborhood, one of the main features of my new home was the nearby park. The park consists of a jungle gym, basketball courts, and a handball court. Located right next to it is my elementary school. Faded white lines make up what's left of the amateur baseball field next to the basketball courts. When riding the swings between the jungle gym and handball court, I've always felt as if the metal chains holding the plastic seat were about to snap. It isn't much of a park in the traditional sense, in that it's mostly concrete and doesn't have much grass at all. There's nothing really fancy about the park but I've grown to call it mine. The back entrance of my school leads directly to the park. When the weather's bearable, the lunch aides used to let us play outside with deflated kickballs and other broken equipment. On luckier days, our teachers would sometimes schedule a period to simply play kickball, which, at the time, I thought was the best sport. But most of the park was considered off-limits, such as the jungle gym and handball courts. Still, we made the best of what we were given and usually ended up indulging after school ended anyways.
This is the park where I shot my first basketball and got my first rebound. It was the place where I learned how to ride a scooter and holds my first memory of staying somewhere past 8PM without my parents. The park is the only park in America my grandparents have, and ever will have, taken me to. I remember it being the place where I've met a ton of friends, many of whom I haven't spoken to in years. But I also remember it as the park where I developed friendships I keep to this day.
I walked through this park for two years to go to junior high school. I would then come home, after, with chips in my hand and cans of Arizona. During the summer, the Mister Softee trucks would appear. Sometimes the Spanish lady selling Italian ices would come too. The guy who owned the Mister Softee truck sometimes sold dollar ice cream cones because he knew we couldn't afford the full-price. He wouldn't give as much but we appreciated it nonetheless. Even the Red Bull car would come occasionally, giving out free cans of the energy drink. I used to think drinking it would give me a heart attack or something.
I'm grateful for this park and how its shaped me - in ways both physically and mentally. I love the emptiness of the park when it's night , where the one of the basketball courts had enough light for me to put up a few jump shots when I was feeling down. The park contained my goals and dreams, from becoming a professional basketball player to little things like losing a bit of weight. It was a place I remember crying out in pain from ankle sprains and other injuries; it was also a place where I cried and felt at my worst. I had plenty of talks there too, some pleasant and others depressing. I listened, spoke, and reacted to the things my friends would tell me. They would do the same for me and that's what made the park so special.
Sometimes I go back and reminiscence about these things but I realize I do that because I haven't really moved on. From the first girl I liked to friends I never thought I would see again, they've all gone elsewhere. I'm still here, shooting basketballs at night and walking by to go to the bus stop. Some people would call a lack of change good, but I can't help but think I've plateaued here. I don't have much of a story to tell people I haven't seen in a while. What do I say? I still live at the same place, near the park where we used to play basketball or fool around.
When I walk by the park during recess time, I look to see if the same lunch aides are still there; they usually are. I sigh at the children running around and wish it were me. Running around aimlessly never seemed so fun. I then often feel a hint of disdain because it almost seems as if the park forced me to grow up. I want to ask for my childhood back but what I really want is another chance to do all these things all over again. I would think to myself: I hate this park, but it's mine. At least it's mine.