A Playground Story


Imagine a time, imagine a place, not so long ago as you might think. Move your mind to a schoolhouse tiny dropped on grounds with acres of space. At times I go there still, like a drug-fueled flashback, quick as a wink. Back to a dominion filled with children rowdy. Trapped in long recess. Lost in timeless free play. Bent on territory defending. With children wild and no adults attending.

Imagine a time, imagine a place, not so far away as you might think. Back where we knew each quirky personality, each freckled face. Back when we roamed the schoolyard wide in dog-like packs. Back when we played mumblety-peg on open plains. With pocketknives wielded like country swords. Arguing the merits of brands—the utility of Barlow, the beauty of Case.

Imagine a time, imagine a place, not so remote as you might think. Back when we could swing from the trees inwoods nearby. Limber, uprooted saplings, we were. Ascending taller saplings, with their tips touching the sky. Climbing until we rode them gently down to touch the ground with our skinned knees. Genuflecting in the primal forest without reflecting on what it might mean to fight a war, to love someone, to be a saint. No structure, no higher reason, just pure reaction to each passing season. Doing simply as we pleased. Some might christen this a wonderland, much akin to the Never Never Land of Peter Pan.

Such an idyllic world is less fun than you might think. I played my part in that piece of minimalist performance art. I endured the wilding kids seeking primordial thrills in chaos dark. Eight unschooled years I lived like that. Yes, there were lessons there to be learned. But here is where my truth lies. It was for me a place too far, for far too long a season. No place fit for Peter Pan. No love held for Tinkerbelle. No comical Captain Hook for fiend. In place of adventure, only trials. Survival of the insidious. Dante’s outer ring of Hell. Paradise lost at finish and from the start. Close kindred to Lord of the Flies.

It should come as no surprise that as soon as soon would yield, I left that brutal playing field. And I felt no sadness to say my sweet goodbyes. Hard and well earned are such sweet, sweet goodbyes.

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