|Sheriff Street Park|
It was now renovated. They had torn down the kindergarten building that had the public bathrooms we used during our kindergarten bathroom breaks, and put up a jungle gym instead. The baby swings were still there and so was the sprinkler, which, when I was little, had been my idea of heaven.
But the sandbox was no longer there because sand had been deemed unsanitary. The big swings were gone because they had been deemed too dangerous (and judging from a small scar on my chin, perhaps they were).
And the Men's Park was still empty.
However, the Bridge still loomed above the playground. That constant song of train and car was the same as it always had been, from the very beginning of me playing there, sometimes by myself, sometimes with other kids, and when it was summer, sometimes in the summer camp program.
Florence, five stories up, practicing, always a shout away if it was time for me to come up or if I had a question, like could I play outside a little bit longer. That Bridge never left even when I went off to discovered Washington Square Park.
When I moved "uptown", I would pass the playground, year after year, decade after decade, on my way to visit Florence or a friend sitting shiva or a rare reunion with friends still on Grand Street. But I don't recall ever entering it.
Then Florence got sick. Almost over night, she no longer could rush through her city and her life as ferociously as blood rushed through a body. Suddenly days were filled with constant care.
So our big excursion, outside of making it to the car service waiting on the corner, became a trek to one of the park benches that faced the sprinkler and was practically under the Bridge. We'd sit there for what felt like hours, but probably wasn't and listen to the only thing that hadn't changed, that song of train and car.
And then, Florence, with growing awareness that this was it for her day, her life, would ask to go home before she had to admit how heartbroken she was that the playground was now the limits of her world.