The Inside Park

Most Saturdays, you and I brave the cold just long enough to get from the fogged car into the St Anthony Park and Rec building. We strip down the layers of fleece and head for the inside park. The ball pit terrifies you, most of the other children terrify you. But, you love the inside park. We shuffle around in our stockings, climbing the slide, throwing the bouncy balls, just you and I. No TV to distract, no phone ringing, no adult conversation.

We take a break and drink our juice at the mini picnic tables. I spy on the big kid parents, chatting on benches, reading their mystery novels. I covet the life of a big kid parent, I am terrified to get there too soon. We bundle up and head out to the frozen car. I feel like the best mother in the world, wholesome, we are apple pie.

But, this Saturday I don’t have the cash for the St Anthony Park and Rec. I introduce you to the other inside park, at the mall. I run from the far-end of the parking lot, snuggling you close to my scarf. We take the elevator to the sunless lower level, pass the Rag Stock and into the abandon store space next to the JC Penny’s.

You are delighted with the rubber trees, the tent, the giant ladybug. I feel the strange need to watch the crowd, to protect you from the mall playground predators. You discover the rides and are happy to climb all over the fire truck, TV roller coaster, horse…no quarters required.

We sit on the carpet and eat cheddar bunnies, staring at the tower of bubble gum machines. I scan the other parents: breast feeding, checking for text messages, dragging kids out the door. Slowly, I recognize a feeling of desperation. A want for more, trapped in this florescent lighted room…suddenly I am this, whatever the opposite of apple pie is.  It feels like the gum stuck hard on the bottom of the giant ladybug.

We pack our things into the stroller and take the elevator to the top floor of the JC Penny’s. Headed for home and a nap, under quilts, on the couch.

You ask to go back to the other inside park and I take you Saturday after Saturday. I hide my shame, my desperation, from you. I am waiting like a junkie for the summer, the real daylight and the warm wading pool.


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