A park, a river, and a toad: Childhood Memories
For one of my classes this semester we have to do weekly free writing exercises. This week's was on a place that holds particular resonance to us. I liked how it came out so much that I wanted to post it here on my blog:
"A place that holds particular resonance for me is from my childhood. It is called Rock Street Park. It is a small park on the outskirts of the small town that I grew up in. Set off the edge of an almost completely untraveled road, the park is a small patch of land on the edge of the Battenkill River; just upstream from the dam that runs the power grid across the river. It has various picnic tables and charcoal grills scattered on either side of the paved path that runs down the middle of the grass, straight down to the dock that extends out into the river. There are two rustic, metal slides on both sides of this path, but my younger sister and I don’t go on them because they are infested with bees. The park is bordered on both edges by tall grass and swamp plants. A weeping willow tree sits at the left corner of the park near the river, letting its swooping branches just brush the edges of the water.
My sister and I would go wade in the water under that tree, water shoes on, and chase around the swarms of tadpoles. Sometimes we would bring plastic cups to catch them in and then let them back into the murky river. We used to go here with my babysitter Candy and my Meme. We would make a picnic lunch and eat egg salad sandwiches and chips at the picnic tables, play in the sandy water, and throw sticks into the river to watch them float downstream, where they would get stuck in the dam.
As we got older and no longer needed a babysitter, my sister, a friend and I would bike across town to this little park on our summer breaks from school just for something to do. Off to the side of the park we discovered a hiking trail through the forest that laid to the right of the park. We would walk down that trail, leaving our bikes at the edge of the park, and follow it down as it weaved alongside the river, about ten feet above the water. Occasionally we would find paths that led down to little beaches along the river’s edge that used to be used for fishing. We could slide down these steep paths and stand on the sand to look across the river and listen to the cars speed along route 29 on the other side. One time we even saw a beaver pop out of the water on the way to his little pile of sticks in the middle of the river.
One thing that was consistent of our hiking excursions was the point we hit to turn around and come back. Somewhere towards what we originally thought was the end of the trail sat a huge log house in the middle of the forest. The trail extended into the yard of this home that seemed connected to no road. Usually when we reached that spot we turned around to go back to our bikes.
One day, however, we were curious as to how far the path went past the house, if it did at all. So, quickly and quietly, we snuck through the back yard of the log house – thinking we would get in trouble if we were caught in somebody’s yard – to where the path picked up again on the other side. The path kept going for I don’t know how long. We walked it a little further, and then ended up going off the path through the foliage and up a hill to some railroad tracks. They were the same set that we would walk along near our houses on the other end of town, and were far beyond use anymore. We walked along them for a little while, taking pictures and discovering a little toad hopping between them. After about ten or fifteen minutes we decided it was time we better head back to our bikes to get home.
Before this assignment and having to really think about a place that was meaningful to me and would have enough to write about for twenty minutes, I don’t think I realized just how important this place and these memories are to me and my childhood."