“Why are you leaving me? I can’t believe that this is our last week together,” my friend said softly, swinging back and forth, the metal chains clinking in the silence her words left.
I didn’t respond. No words came to me.
I had grown up coming to Wellington Park, where we now sat watching the end of an era draw near.
A sign bearing the words, “$1 with a cone top!” greeted neighbors as they made their way to the park on sunny summer afternoons. Selling lemonade is for schmucks; my older brother, aged 6, and I, aged 4, opened up a snow cone stand instead. We didn’t have a piggy bank—we had a metal deposit box. We were serious.
Sept. 1999 - June 2004
In elementary school, we never went home directly after school; getting off the bus and going to the park was a daily ritual. While I was having a great time on the tire swing, my stomach suffered. It tendered its resignation one day after being tossed around one too many times. I threw up in the bushes. It was the most embarrassing thing that my pre-double-digit self had experienced, and I avoided tire swings for the rest of my childhood.
Other memories: catching baby turtles, which urinated on our hands; fishing in the pond for Godzilla, a colossal albino turtle; sneaking into the bordering horse farm; building secret hideouts in the trees.
Sept. 2007 - June 2011
Even in high school we couldn’t avoid Wellington Park. Suburban life doesn’t provide many satisfying diversions. We would lie on the basketball court and eat brownie sundaes from the ice cream place down the road and feel the pavement sizzle against our bare legs. We would play flag football and Frisbee on the grass, and I would, of course, be the worst one on the team.
Sometimes, we watched high school kids smoke pot surreptitiously—or at least try to—and we laughed as they joined us on the swings. Those were strange conversations. But mostly, we would swing aimlessly as we aimlessly talked about life.
“I’ll be home in December. Four months isn’t that long,” I finally responded. She rolled her eyes.
Times change. When the old wooden fort was replaced with a new plastic playhouse, I might have felt sad. I didn’t, though. As I’ve learned, one day, you return from whence you came and it’s just different; that’s how things are.
And yet, we still go back to Wellington, where we leave a broken silence, our broken silence, atop the swings, our swings.