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Freedom's Just Another Word for...a Park Trip to Hell

Yesterday, I overheard a mom telling her whining son that “the park is supposed to be a happy place.”


Frankly, I’ve not always found that to be true.


Take, for example, a family trip we made a few weekends ago to the new, upscale Freedom Playground. Just the name in all its optimism and glory bodes trouble.


This particular Sunday, while a bit muggy, was actually still chilly around 9 a.m. But, to our good fortune, the sprinklers some genius designer had installed as a playground feature were operational. Kids kept pushing the buttons to ignite the spray and dashing through the mist. My children followed suit, became sodden, and started complaining that they were wet and cold.


Then my kids were hungry. I read them the signs that cautioned that “NO COFFEE, NO SODA, NO JUICE, NO FOOD” were allowed on the playground. “Can you eat pretzels?” my 5-year-old son asked. I read him the rest of the sign: “Beverages/Food Damage: $130,000 Ground Cover.”


Luckily, at about that time, our friend showed up with his boys. My husband was overjoyed. Off they went with our 5-year-old twins to play touch football with a Lightning McQueen bouncy ball on the adjoining field – a not-so-subtle ploy for the grown men to discuss fantasy football.


I got to stay on the playground with our 2-year-old and spin on the tire swing. But she would only allow us to circulate in one direction. Overcome by nausea, I sprawled out on the $130,000 ground cover for several minutes, while Jane danced around my head crying, “Mommy, push me!”


Partially recovered, I retreated with Jane to join the others on the field and noted that our friend was sporting a new shirt from a recent race. I was effusive in my compliments because this friend is notorious for wearing the same, ragged, purple t-shirt every time we see him. My enthusiasm for his upscaled wardrobe waned, however, when he disclosed that he’d actually contracted MRSA on the mud run in which he’d earned this new shirt. I backed away, again with my 2-year-old, to the picnic tables.


Here, no signs threatened our lives if we cracked the applesauce squeezers. So out they came, only to be greeted by a swarm of alarmingly persistent bees. The red shorts I’d chosen were apparently not only some kind of ill-judged fashion statement but also a yellow jacket magnet. Jane merrily sucked down her nectar, while I swatted and ducked, and then swatted again, slamming a stinger into my right calf.


Now I know why my twins scream so loudly when they’re stung. I hopped around for a few minutes. “Why mommy dancing?” Jane wanted to know. Then I collected myself enough to holler, “Time to go!”


“Freedom Playground?”


More like park trip to hell.

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