We lived across from a public park with a “tot lot”. Compared to today’s parks, our was a liability wet dream. There were these miniature iron merry-go-round horses on giant springs. Back and forth we would ride the horses, trying to touch the nose and the tail to the sand. Yep….SAND. The whole place was white beach sand. There was a very tall…..in my childhood memory….maybe 25-35 ft high “fort”. Ladder up one side, center firehouse pole down the center and a narrow metal slide down the front. We would jump off the sides into the sand below. We would get rug burn on the insides of our legs sliding down the pole. The slide was sheet metal and would get scorching hot in the summer. This park was a serious death trap. And we were usually totally unsupervised. There were no Mommies sitting on the park benches with juice boxes and snack packs. There was no referee or umpire. We were exiled to the park everyday. It was either do chores or go outside and play. As long as we could hear my dad whistle, we were LOOSE.

My favorite part of the park were the swings. These were not the sissy swings of the backyard genre. No way! These swings were on 15-20 foot chains. You could easily get a 120 degree arc. We would pump and pump and pump and then JUMP out the front of the swings like poll vaulters. We would lie on our bellies and twist the chains up and then fly while the chains unwound. We came home with shoes full of sand, sand matted to our scalps, sand under our finger nails…sand everywhere. How did we survive that park? It is amazing there was never a typhoid outbreak or cholera. The ONLY source of water was a single water fountain that was perpetually clogged with sand. The bowl would be puddle. We would have the rake the water out of the bowl before we could drink. Otherwise, your ear got baptized while you drank. And of course, your cheek touched the metal water fountain that 1000 other faces had pressed against. The horror.

I loved that park. That park was a refuge. That park was sanctuary.