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In the Park


Back in my favourite park again ... Sitting on that grassy hillside, soaking up the spring warmth, and watching the people go by... I haven't been here for a long time, not since the mild days of last autumn. But as I was passing by this place a few days ago, I noticed that the colour was coming back to the grass, so I made a date with myself to drop by again the first chance I got.

It's just the same as I remember it ... and it's different. The park itself hasn't been altered, but with the change of the season, of course all the greenery looks different. I don't remember seeing those vivid yellow bushes before ... but I suppose that last autumn they weren't trying to attract so much attention to themselves. And as the trees are still quite bare, the overall appearance is still somewhat wintry.

But there are any number of different little green sprouts poking up from the ground around the place where I sit, and I am sure that in just another week or so, the whole place will be lush and verdant again.

Just as I did so many times last fall, I watch the parade pass by along the path at the foot of the slope. This is one thing that never changes. No matter how many months, and how many years go by, the makeup of this parade never changes one bit. In the space of just a few minutes, I see a panorama of my life pass in front of me.

See there, that young couple, the woman pushing a baby stroller. That's me lying in there, just a few days old, and sleeping peacefully while my mother gets me out of the house for some fresh air. How many miles she must have walked pushing me around!

And just over there, not too far from where I sit, a fat little toddler, barely able to stand by himself, chases the ball his father rolls down the slope towards him. That's me too. I can't pretend to remember those days, but I know I was there in the park ... chasing a ball just like that ... falling on my face just like that ... yelling and crying just like that ...

Where next ...? Over there ... there I am, in that group of young boys kicking a soccer ball around. They've set up a couple of goal markers with their jackets, but somehow the game seems a bit one-sided. All the big kids are on one 'team', and the goal-keeper on the other side (That's me! I'm sure it's me ...) is getting plenty of exercise retrieving the ball from where it has been kicked past him so many times ...

I look around carefully, but can't seem to find my next self ... It seems that there are times in our lives when parks are important, and times when they are not. Perhaps there's going to be a gap here ... But maybe not. Over there, in that family picnic group ... isn't that me? He seems a bit too big to be spending the day with his mother and father in the park, but not so big yet that they are willing to let him go off on his own activities. Yes, that must be me ... I remember those days. Caught in the middle between two worlds ... not comfortable in either one.

And now, there is a gap. A gap about ten years long. Go to the park? What on earth is a 20-year old boy going to do in the park? Get serious! He's got places to go ... people to see ... things to do ... and a quiet Sunday afternoon in the park is not one of them!

But the gap turns out to be not so long after all, and after a short pause ... here I come again. And this time, I am not alone. I don't look too sure of myself, do I - walking along over there with that young lady. You can hear the sparkle in her voice even at this distance, as her laughter fills the air, but he doesn't seem to have too much to say. He doesn't quite know what to do with his hands, his clothes don't seem to fit very well ... and he even walks funny! What does she see in him? Yes, I remember those days very well ... But I wonder sometimes ... does she?

Getting close now ... The young couple with the stroller comes back, I suppose on their way home. This time, he is pushing the stroller. I didn't recognize him earlier, but yes, I see now, it's me. He looks fairly happy, quite contented. I don't think he really understands well what has happened to him over the past couple of years, but he is going to take things as they come, and try and enjoy the new adventure opening up in front of him.

And that father over there, rolling the ball down the slope to his toddler ... I notice now, that his wife is wearing a long sack-like dress ... Yes, she's pregnant. Has ten years really passed since those days? Somehow it seems like just ...

Now, looking arond, I can see myself everywhere in this park, playing with my kids. How much time during those years did we spend in the park? Uncountable hours, day after day. Any time that it wasn't actually raining ... we were here. The two of us ... the three of us ... the four of us ...

And as I sit musing on those times, I notice a man sitting on the hillside just over there. Sitting alone ... idly watching the parade go by, and now and then bending his head to scribble something in his notebook. He too, looks quite contented. His kids are probably off somewhere busy with their own activities, he has a couple of hours to himself, and what better place to spend it that this grassy hillside ... Yes, this time it is me ... no doubt about it.

I see him nibble the end of his pencil, as he thinks about what to write next. As he tries to decide ... to decide whether or not to continue his little story, writing about the park visitors who represent the next stages in his life, or to stop at this point. To stop here, and leave the future undisturbed.

What should he do? Continue ... or stop ... What should he do ...