The empty swing trembles, moaning softly as it rocks back and forth in the slight breeze. Vines trail up the poles, twisting this way and that in gnarled disarray. Rust spreads like a disease, spotting the merry-go-round’s metallic surface. Smells of dew drenched grass hover about as the sun slowly vanishes from sight, illuminating the park without the burden of being seen. Vivacious laughter of children’s voices years ago resounded on sunny days is now only a whispering echo in the mind. Depleted of color, the sun stained slide slumbers. The jungle gym heaves a heavy sigh back arched as an old man. Untamed grass towers over splintered picnic tables and overturned trash cans. Nothing remains of the long since decomposed garbage. Birds withhold their song, squirrels vow silence, even the crickets have refused to chirp. An unsettling stillness possesses this place, forgotten by the community that once cherished it.
Standing at the center of Sycamore Park, I try to picture the place as it once was. Pebbles scatter like marbles as a young me runs through the grounds, stretching my grin as far as it will go. The scent of freshly cut grass blended with the sticky sweet smell of morning dew fills my nostrils as I turn toward the slide. But it is no longer a slide. Mt. Everest stands before me, and I have decided to climb it. I trudge through imagined piles of snow and sludge until finally arriving at the top—king of the mountain, conqueror of deadly Mt. Everest—and there is only one way down. Shouting wildly, I dive headfirst down the slippery slope, not waiting to start my next adventure. Suddenly, the playground is underwater and the jungle gym contains the only air bubble. I dart toward the life source, holding my breath until my lungs scream inside my chest. My fingers clasp around the slick metal bars as I squeeze inside. The air hits my lungs like candy. Laying my head on the pebbles, the coolness envelopes my face, and I watch those around me. The mothers chatter and kids howl. Monkey bars, swings, teeter-totters—these became outlets to a world of no limitations.
As the musky smell of rotting wood reaches my nostrils, I am beckoned back to the present. The park has reached its limitations. My fingers explore the grooves of the sycamore tree. Peeling bark flakes like sunburn, casting chips along the base of the tree. Weeds now peek through pebbles once scatter in play. I turn. The desolation begins to gnaw at my soul as I wade through the grass toward my car. Light dissipates. I spare one more over-the-shoulder look. The frigid air and eerie silence send shivers through my body. Kids no longer play here, only ghosts of memories past.