There is a place I like to go. It’s just a park. Just a common, everyday park where little kids giggle on swings and slides and dogs freeze in mid-air when fetching sticks; but I like it there. It’s a place where dreams sit just at eye level, captured in the grasses grown too tall in the sun.
I used to go there when my now almost 12- year old boy was just a baby and play for hours, talking to people I barely knew about life and love, about everything we were and all we’d ever been. I was myself in that park, traipsing with bare feet. Wearing long, cool summer dresses that turned translucent in the sunlight.
Today I saw a mother and a baby sitting under the oak tree where I used to sit. The image was as familiar and ecstatic as a religious tableau. I felt like I had been transported back in time and was watching a barely held impression of myself, of a life long passed.
I cried in that park. When my mother found my sister with a mouth full of pills, when my dog I’d loved for fifteen years died shivering in my arms, when the house I’d worked so hard to buy was sold at auction in front of everyone in the street.
For the longest time I couldn’t go back to the place that allowed me to slip so easily back into being myself. It hurt. Like thinking of things that have gone for good. My life didn’t depend on seeing it every day, so I didn’t. But I missed it. It was a space, an empty space waiting to be filled.
I was invited to picnics in that park. To kids parties where they had those little cocktail sausages I love. And the fairy cakes with cream and strawberry jam. But always I said no. ‘I am just so busy,’ I said. ‘So terribly busy.’ I couldn’t go back to the place where it had been so easy to be myself, not when everything had changed.
But it’s funny when you’re brave enough to take that leap of faith and stand still under the tangy-scented camphor laurel trees, how being yourself just happens all over again. And it’s there in the mid-afternoon light, where scraps of sky tear in the treetops, that you begin the journey back to the place called home.