It all started with the red ladybug sandbox.
K was 2 and I decided she needed a sandbox. The ladybug was the perfect size – not too big, not too small – and K loved it. She loved it before we even put sand in it. She filled it with the little plant id tags from my garden, stepped in and started filling her bucket with plant tags. I loved it because for the first time since K could move, I could sit.
We started going to playgrounds. There was the sunny playground with the great train. There was the wooden playground with the dog statue. There was the Veres Street playground at Mom and Dad’s house. We loved them all. K enjoyed the climbing structures more than the swings but she always made time for the sandbox. We packed a snack, sometimes lunch and stayed for hours. The leaving was never fun but honestly leaving anywhere at that point in K’s life was a challenge. And really, who wants to willingly leave a playground?
We decided to expand the offerings at home. I did the research and declared that we needed to go with one of the more expensive choices because they marketed themselves as “splinter-free.” What can I say? I was a relatively new mom at the time. I believed it was in my power to keep K’s life splinter-free not realizing that the required mulch underneath the play space would provide more than its share of splinters. We started with a sandbox and climbing area and would ultimately add a swing set. I can’t begin to count the hours we spent visiting playgrounds or using the masterpiece in the backyard.
But somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, the swings in the backyard weren’t really for swinging anymore. K and her friend G would sit on them and chat for hours but they didn’t swing. They had gotten too big to go down the slide or climb in the fort. But they loved to sit on the swings and talk out of earshot of the adults. Visits to public playgrounds had stopped a while before. We were too busy with other things.
The backyard playground began to show its age. The ladybug sandbox was more pink than red and the lid hadn’t been opened in ages. The mulch had been ground into the dirt and lost its battle with the weeds. The girls realized there was just as much privacy in K’s bedroom and the swings stayed empty.
A neighbor’s granddaughter was having twins. The baby’s arrival would make five children. Could they use a swing set? The neighbor came and looked at ours and thought this family would enjoy it. Kids could climb on it and swing on it again. We were thrilled they wanted to take it. Yet, I’m glad I was away the day they came to take it down. You see, it was just yesterday that my girl was three and we sat on the steps and watched the men put it up.
K and I drove by the wooden playground the other day. Or I should say the place where the wooden playground was. The powers that be decided it was too old or too unsafe so it was taken down. It was replaced with a much smaller, rubber/plastic kind of structure. “I can’t believe they changed it, Mom. That was a great playground. Do you remember how we used to go there?”
Yes, K. Yes. I remember.