Warinanco Park, all 200 glorious acres of it, was a mere half block from my New Jersey childhood home. Growing up in a time when parenting meant shooing the kids out of the house and telling them to “go play, just be back in one piece for dinner one it gets dark,” it was a paradise for my friends and me. Woods to play hide-and- seek in, trees to climb and sticky sap all over you if you chose a pine tree, a lake to skip stones in, a Lover’s Lane to spy on our future incarnation as teenagers, open fields to catch falling Autumn leaves, hills to sled down in Winter. There were tennis courts, basketball courts, a track-and field, kid-worn baseball diamonds to play pick-up games and more official baseball diamonds with amateur adult teams playing. Many a summer night I sat on the bleachers passing time with America’s favorite passed time, just slow enough to savor the approaching firefly night and interesting enough to stay to see who won and occasionally stand up when the ball went far into the outfield.
And here I am, an adult living again a half-a-block away from another park, this one Golden Gate Park and a thousand acres, but also with woods and lakes and fields and baseball diamonds (hmm. Wonder where Lover’s Lane is?). So in the late afternoon on a warm day and the smoke finally cleared, I sauntered over to Big Rec and watched a baseball game of amateur vaguely uniformed adults. A Middle Eastern family was nearby playing with their little boy, who was laughing uproariously at their antics. Two boys in another family where carrying on the time-honored childhood tradition of rolling down the grassy hill and getting dizzy. It all put me on a little bridge walking back to my own childhood and felt like comfort food for the soul.
Goodness knows we all need it in these crazy times. We feel obligated to keep up with the news even knowing it will knock us down and trample down any chance of unabated happiness in the day. But we also need to take care of ourselves. It’s a good time to look back into one’s memory and spend some time with those moments of magic and mystery, those feelings of comfort and safety and security, those gifted moments of “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.” I believe we’ve all had them. Even the deeply wounded ones who are getting their revenge on us for not getting enough of them could probably find one and sit with it if they looked hard enough.
I’m not suggested we retreat back there and lock the door behind us, away from “the too-rough fingers of the world.” (Langston Hughes). But we certainly should visit and shut the door until we’re ready to emerge refreshed, stronger, ready to face what comes next from a position of renewed strength and refreshed by some beauty we once knew. To sit down to a meal of comfort food, no apologies, and partake freely.
And then find a friend and go roll down a hill.