I had the best childhood ever. Reared in a small town in Montana (population about 3,000), it was the type of community where you knew pretty much everyone. If you didn’t, you knew someone related to them. The best part of all was the fact that we weren’t afraid of anything. You didn’t have to be home at dark because there was no one to take you in the night. You could play in the street because there wasn’t enough traffic to cause any problems—and we lived in town. But the best part was the location of our nearest park. Of course, we had a swing set in our backyard, but that was only used at Easter when we needed a cool place to hide eggs.
For our family, the park was literally a stone’s throw away. It was our salvation as well as our mother’s. It was the place where we received our first education, which dealt mostly with how to be a kid without getting into too much trouble. It was where we learned to explore and develop our creativity. It was where we began to develop our social skills—every child in the neighborhood could be found there during the summer months. It was where we learned to share and take turns. It was also the place we learned about confidence and standing up for what was right and what was wrong.
My favorite memory about the “swimming pool” park was learning to play baseball. If you hit the ball into the pool, it was considered a home run. Whenever we knocked a ball over the fence, my brother Darren was sent after it. He would climb the chain link fence that was topped with barbed wire and toss us the ball back. Unfortunately, there was a retired woman who lived across the street and always seemed to be looking out the window whenever my brother was sent in for retrieval. Even though we got into trouble many times, we also learned that people were there to watch out for us. We may have thought she was mean at the time, but now I know she had our best interests in mind.
If we weren’t playing baseball, we were climbing trees or scrambling all over the play equipment. It may have been old and worn out, but we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We had the tallest swings I have ever seen, a merry-go-round that actually worked, the fastest slide in the world and of course a couple of teeter totters. We could play for hours. Using our imaginations to their greatest capacity, my siblings and I would create games to test our strength and develop our skills. The ideas we came up with would astound even the toughest critics.
Now I believe my mom is the best mom ever. I love the outdoors. Even at my age, I enjoy spending time on swing sets or racing down a slide. People who make their living in the playground industry aren’t there just to make money. They have the best interests of children in mind, plus they like having fun.
Parks and playgrounds aren’t just for entertainment; they are so much more. They get children off the couch and moving outside. Parks bring out the creative side of every child. Playgrounds are much more than just pieces of equipment. They can create memories to last, even when you’re my age and start to lose those memories.
Ahh…the joy of being a kid.
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