Friday, Béla found out that our park would be closing for nine months for a nine-month renovation project.
He was pretty blindsided, as he has socialized in that park, sometimes for nine hour stretches — often until dusk — for years. If it hadn’t been so important to him and if he hadn’t been such a fixture there, where many friends went to find him, we wouldn’t have needed plans B though Z. So we started to think them through.
Walking to Capitolo Playground, a few blocks down, allows him to meet up with our friends Chris and Bruce — and to learn to judge the relative safety and pecking order of the basketball court. That was our first goal. But we knew we were going to be trying a lot more independent transport this year anyway, so I had ideas.
It’s just that Claudia was at the ribbon-cutting for that playground at six weeks old. They met so many friends there. Claudia did some of her earliest walking there. Béla got a serious concussion and was loaded into an ambulance there. So many memories. All of their very first independent time playing outside in the city happened there, and I think if you ran back the security camera tapes over the last three to four years in particular, it’d be pretty clear just how much time they both spent there — but particularly Béla. But, Béla realizes when the new upgrades park and playground is reopened, it won’t be the playground of his childhood — and it was the end of an era, and he feels it.
Friends — moms of Béla’s close friends — texted me Sunday to say there was a get together that night to say goodbye to the old playground. Béla went to the Acme himself to buy snacks, and took his good camera to take photos in the park.
Monday morning he went as close as the crew would allow and documented the beginnings of the transformation with his camera.
Then, it was clear he needed to remember how many new possibilities were opening to him. A rite of passage for a Philly kid is crossing Broad St. alone. I texted a neighbor who is a lifelong South Philly guy. “That IS a big deal. I remember my first time,” he said.
They have been doing it with an adult watching; today Béla and Claudia did it alone.
Alone together — the best way to learn independence.