There were two parks in the small southern Ontario town where I grew up. My husband had never seen either of them, having grown up in Alberta. We’d already strolled through the big park where the annual Rodeo and Fall Fair were held. I’d shown him the dinosaur monkey bars and tall climbing trees where I’d spent so many happy hours.
Now we strolled hand in hand through the much smaller Remembrance Park. In the center stood the cenotaph, erected in honour of the men who had served in the World Wars and the Korean War.
“It looks so different now!” I told him. “The cenotaph used to be across the road from where I lived as a teenager. And these big flat stones around the cenotaph weren’t here. This whole section of the park used to be grass. Oh, look! The log bridge is still there!”
We crossed the little arched bridge, stopping in the middle to watch the tiny waterfall as the narrow creek tumbled over a ledge of rock.
My feet were too big now to step on the logs one at a time, as I had when I was in second grade, walking through the little park on my way to and from school every day.
“Are those real?” John asked, spying two small, dark green cannons on the other side of the bridge.
“Oh yeah! My brothers and I used to play on them. We would sit on top and another would turn the crank till the muzzle was pointing up so high they would almost slide down. It was great fun!”
“They appear to be welded now so they won’t move,” John observed.
“But that’s not the most exciting thing that ever happened in this park.”
“Tommy was five and Mikey was three the day I nearly scared us and my mom half to death. It isn’t there any more, but down at the far end, near the Oddfellows Hall – see it there? – there was a small patch of bush. In the middle of it was some quicksand. My mom had threatened me with my life if I ever went near it by myself, never mind when I had my little brothers with me. But at seven, I was very curious. What did quicksand look like? What would happen if you stepped in it just at the edge? That day I was sure no one would ever know if we went in that direction. My brothers had never been there before, and didn’t even know the quicksand was there.
“So off we went. And wouldn’t you know, Tommy stepped right in the quicksand, and found himself sucked right in to the tops of his brand new rubber boots!
“I don’t know what terrified me more – the fear of him sinking in over his head, or my mother’s wrath. I couldn’t know, of course, that Tommy was in no real danger. But he was hollering because he couldn’t get out, and I couldn’t pull him out. In a panic, I yelled at both boys to stay there, and tore off home to get my mom.”
“How far did you have to run?” John asked.
“Only a couple of short blocks. But it was downtown, so I had to cross the traffic. When I got home, my aunt and uncle were there visiting from the city. This was a huge deal, because the city was a whole hour away, and we went there maybe once a year. I loved playing with my cousins Barbie and Brenda. But my joy was short-lived that day. My mom was so mad at me she sent me to my room for the rest of the day. I didn’t get to play with them at all!
“But you know what’s really funny? I don’t know what made Mom most angry – that I’d disobeyed her, or that my brother was in some danger, or if it’s because by the time she got to him, his brand new rubber boots had completely disappeared. She lifted him out of the quicksand with the help of my uncle, but the boots stayed behind.”
John laughed. “I’ll bet you never went near the quicksand ever again!”
“You got that right!”
We both laughed as we walked hand in hand out of the park.
© Willena Flewelling