When I was here I was a child, I was straight, I was a civilian.
When I was growing up it was called Betty Park. It was small, even by children standards; green grass holding up swings, monkey bars, and cool metal merry-go-rounds.
Every fourth of July, we sat in the grass watching the colors and sounds bursting overhead. Blankets, finger foods, and open containers littered the south side of the park. Every summer all the local non-working moms parked children at summer day camp. The older ones watched and guided the younger ones and the younger ones tested the patience of the older guardians.
One day we found the over grown fields beyond the park on the north side — the place that was off limits except to light the fireworks on the fourth. The rusted gate proved no obstacle to wiry inquisitive minds. We ran through the overgrowth, carving out trails, and climbing the dirt hills.
By the time I was in high school, Betty Park turned into Alcyon Lake and became a health hazard. Number 1 or 2, depending on which study you wanted to believe.
Thirty years later the park is modernized with a safe plastic slide and eco-friendly wooden picnic tables carved out in the center to allow the tree to grow through it. The grass is mostly green again and a faded paved macadam wanders lazily from one side to another.
Ducks and Canadian Geese have infiltrated the water’s edge and surrounding bushes. People now fish from the north embankment and a few braver souls sit in the middle in new plastic kayaks.
Around the back side the hills we played on are gone. The death of the toxic hills and over growth have sprung up perfectly manicured lined soccer and baseball fields.
I used to believe when I came home on leave for the holidays, for my brother’s wedding, for my best friend’s new born baby, that this would be the last time I watched the flow of the algae, the ducks and geese hashing out their territorial spaces.
I sit — watching — waiting for my next move.
After I drink in my fill of nostalgia to flirt with the line of depression of what should have been or could have been or wanting to be, I travel slowly down the streets of my past. The past flows by the empty shell of my childhood home, the ghost of hundred year old birch trees that lined the road, the baseball field where girls were making headlines playing flag football, and the hill that as children was so huge that we spent hours sliding down in the snow.
The feeling of letting go, of saying goodbye — again — to my childhood comes rushing back over me.
Is this the last goodbye or just the beginning of another long absence?