Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vantage Point

On a breezy, sunny, summer afternoon, my oldest niece (age 14) rang me up asking if I wanted to go to a park with her, her two sisters, and my sister (aka their Mom). Amazingly, even though I was deep in the brain-fried vegetative state induced by moving digital candies around a screen in Candy Crush, I managed to wrest myself away from the computer and prepare for a trek to the great outdoors. I trotted upstairs to lace on some sneakers and realize that my one pair of jeans that fit were still in the washer. Sweat pants it is!

They picked me up and using the democratic process of majority rule and the civilized process of compromise we decided on Coggshall Park, a 212-acre city park not far from the family homestead. It had trails for the elders, a playground for the two youngest, and ducks, swans, and turtles for everyone.

As kids, my brother, sister and I trudged to Coggshall with our friends after school to ice skate on the frozen pond in the winters and rode our bikes there to enjoy the cool, shady roads and the playground in the summer. It’s where my brother and I were routinely flung from the treacherous, old mushroom shaped merry-go-round, and where we once (perhaps on a dare, the details are a bit fuzzy) marched into the mucky lake, soaking our jean shorts and prompting us to hide in one of the now extinct tree houses until we dried. It is the place where, as an adult, my brother demonstrated for a friend how he used to “ski down Moses Rock in his Sunday shoes.” Unfortunately, that particular day he was wearing construction boots which have radically different traction than dress shoes, and, as he put it, “Theisman-ed” his leg, snapping it just above the top of the work boot.

In short, the place is full of memories for us. Now we take my nieces so they can have their own memories, which lately include counting the turtles.

On this day, we decided to walk one of the trails, and the girls chose “yellow.” We began following yellow dots into the woods, passing the gigantic rock and scene of my brother’s leg incident, from which he was carried out of the woods by two EMTs (but not the original two female EMTs who first responded, because they couldn't actually pick him up). Sadly, that trail quickly became narrow and overgrown just beyond the boulder, so we turned back and decided to take “the trail that goes to the top of the hill where you can see over to KMart” on the other side of Mirror Lake. Even though I looked it up, I still have no idea if the trails have names at Coggshall, but since finding it previously, this is how the trail is referred to by my family.

This trail with blue markings is more rugged than my orchid colored Converse All Stars are prepared for, and I wished I was wearing my hiking boots, especially when facing a section of trail that was basically a steep wall of rock. But we come from hardy (some say stubborn) Finnish stock, so onward, ho!

The trail sparkled with mica which fascinated me as a kid. Actually, anything even remotely shiny fascinates my middle niece and me, so perhaps there are some crow genes mixed in there, too. This would explain a lot, most notably our unexplainable affinity for rhinestones, sequins and crystals.

My oldest niece and I reached the top of the hill a few seconds before my sister and the two younger girls and instead of the magnificent and sweeping view, the first thing I saw was a couple standing at the absolute best vantage point, pressed against each other, engaged in a full-blown standing lip lock. It reminded me of a high school dance make out session, except they were adults and this was the middle of a public park in the middle of an afternoon, not a darkened gymnasium.

 I shuffled around and called out to the others in my group, figuring the make out couple would stop and maybe even tear their bodies apart in an effort to remove awkwardness and share the view with us. I figured wrong. The female facing our direction just kept peering at us over the shoulder of her companion, and beyond that, there was no acknowledgement that they were no longer alone and that this is a public space. I remember being younger and in lust, but damn, I at least tried to be mindful of other people. Maybe it’s just my upbringing in the Puritan-founded Congregational Church where we sang regularly from the Pilgrim Hymnal and I shouldn’t apply “what I would do” to others.

When the other two nieces and my sister arrived, the first thing one niece yelled was “Hey, I can see Burger King!” which sounded better than “Hey, are the kissing people gonna fall off the rock?” or, “Is Auntie going to go shove those two people off the hill?” Because believe me, shoving them off the rock was kinda what I felt like doing. Luckily, I have a decently functioning internal editor when my nieces are concerned, and I was able to suppress my “Trail Rage.”

Having hauled my ten-ton Nikon up the trail, I tried to get photos of the long-awaited vista, but I was reluctant to march over to where the Make Outs were hogging the view. Consequently, my photos are from a crappy perspective. A few even include the amorous duo, but without actually zooming in on them.

Hopefully, the next time I hike up there the scenery will be absent a love scene worthy of a soap opera. After all, I’d like to get closer for a better view of Burger King.

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