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This is a little story of some of my memories I hope you can enjoy as I'm sure each of you know of a place like this that we can call home:
I suppose you could say my life began in Forest Park. So many are the memories of where I sit now in solace of a life so confused by love, hate, happiness and sadness.
My earliest memories of this place take me back about thirty years or so, to a time when a four year old freckled faced child learned to ride a present brought to her by Santa Claus. A purple, Schwin, big-girl's bike. As spring arrives in Richmond Hill, New York, and gone is the cold that clung to the branches with new buds springing green and flowers blossoming, my Dad says, “Come on kid, lets go for a ride." Therefore, into the family's green station wagon, with care he placed my present that I had longed to ride all winter long. In the pocket of his jeans, a few tools--and me in tow. Off we were just Daddy and me--the boys left at home with mother.
I remember seeing the oh so familiar solider statue, the one I peer at now as I write. As Daddy made the right turn onto the tree lined street of Park Lane South, I turned and saw that solider standing proudly, protecting the secrets and miracles of the park I was yet to learn.
With such ease my father lifted, the bicycle from the back of the station wagon, a strapping man standing six foot four inches tall and well over two hundred pounds. In my eyes, Daddy stood as grand as the solider and would always be there to protect me, his only daughter.
From his pocket, Daddy took a ratchet and raised the training wheels away from the ground. Anticipation grew within my mind, an anxious child, not knowing what to expect. Onto my Schwin, I climbed, my feet barley touching the pedals. Daddy holding the back end of the banana seat as I began to gain momentum. The purple and white streamers attached to the handgrips blowing in the breeze.
Then I hear my father’s voice. "Your doing it kid,” as I realize that I was doing it on my own. This was probably one of the proudest moments in my father's life, seeing 'his Little Girl' doing it on her own, knowing in his heart of hearts there would be so many things I would do alone in my lifetime. Nevertheless, at that moment, pride swelled in his crystal blue eyes and through his smile, a tear appeared.
As the afternoon grew and my confidence soared, I felt as though I had it all.
Childhood summer days were spent there flying kites in Victory Field. With my brothers', Dad and I, we would take our kites on a breezy day to the open track and get the red kite my brothers put together to soar higher than the very clouds themselves.
Feeling the tug of the string as the kites climbed to heights higher then the trees, for hours, we would fly, run, and laugh with the carefree abandon of children. When the evening began to set in Dad would take the kites and begin to reel them in, or so we thought. I watched so intently I could see one of the kites not reeled in, climb higher and higher in the now cloudless sky.
Daddy would have us watch as he slowly let the kite catch wind and soar. We would wait until the kite was no more then a spec in the sky...and our day would be over.
The memory remains and I still look for a random red kite in the sky hoping that some other father shares that kind of memory with his children.
Days of track meets at Victory Field when I was no more than eleven or twelve, being so tall the team used me to jump the hurdles...and for the last leg of the relay races. There was many a meet run in the rain but the park, forgiving as always, never let us loose a meet.
As childhood faded away and gone were the training wheels of life and kites gone a stray, into my life waltzed boys, skipping school and where was there a better place than the safe zone of my childhood.
In eighth grade, it must have been spring, April or May, with me so 'in love' with the boy who lived down the street. In my parents eyes I was not old enough to have a boyfriend ... but I did, knowing, of course, more then my parents, for what fourteen year old believes their parents were also once teenagers.
Therefore, the scene is set to ditch school, and meet we did. To walk the trails of the park on one of the most beautiful days of my recollection. Again, we passed the statue of the solider that frowned at us that day. I didn't care. I knew no bounds, for in the heart of innocent, young love, there are none.
As we held hands and walked through the park I saw and experienced places hidden within the trees that which I knew nothing of. A fallen tree stump, a place to rest as the boy laid his head in my lap and closed his eyes for a moment. The quiet, peaceful safety I felt while there in his arms. They say that the young know nothing of love, but twenty-five years later, you can, and will always, remember that feeling. When your stomach once again feels the sensation of those magical butterflies, your heart quickens, and still a tear is shed for what could have been. I believe that to be in love in its ultimate form, is innocent and true.
A day like that, you wish could have lasted forever and in some ways it does. For as long as your memory serves you, you can travel back in time to your first love and know how things should feel when in love for the first time.
With time, life lead me away from Forest Park for a part of my life living without its safety. The comforting, nestling among the trees when I needed a place to cry, to think or to smile. However, life, being as it is, I was brought back, close to my old home, only now as a parent with grown friends. The park in its original state had remained the same and remained a place where I could go and forget the worries of the day and be a child once again.
A gathering place for our motley crew of friends. The group of us who had somehow become family. We spent many a day at the local 'dome' listening to music, having summer barbecues and winter snowball fights. Of course, upon the demise of, and the inevitable loss of friends, it was the only fitting place to say our last good-byes to them.
I only hope that what is said about being able to see from Heaven is true, because then those of us who are now gone were there with us when we said our final good-byes. Gatherings of forty or more telling stories and remembering when we were young...and there.
Now I sit here and see new faces and I am sure that they all have stories of their own regarding this little piece of heaven I will always consider 'home.'
My thanks go to the solider who stands, unmoving, protecting, and keeping memories for all to share.
My hopes are that when I am fifty or so I can still come to this place and cry and smile and once again recharge my life all over again.