Memories Set In Stone
During a recent evening walk-against-aging-and-larger-pants-size, my wife and I included Two Strike Park on our multi-mile route through our hilly neighborhood. It was the first time either of us had been through the popular park located near the top of Rosemont Avenue since they began replacing the war memorial wall at the south end of the grounds last month.
I had, of course, read several news items the past few months about the efforts of a coalition of community groups to replace the old, chest-high, rock wall monument with something larger because there simply (and sadly) wasn’t any room left to accommodate additional names of local fallen heroes. I knew it was happening, but even so, it was a shock to walk past the site of the former wall the other night and see only empty space where the old wall had stood for so many decades.
You see, my childhood home was only a few houses up the street from Two Strike. It’s safe to say I spent many of the best days of my youth there. So walking past the empty space marked only by a scab of recently backhoed dirt left me more than a little melancholy.
As a kid, I only had to grab my skateboard or hop on my metal-flake green Schwinn Sting Ray (with faux-leather banana seat and cheater slick back tire, no less) and I’d be at Two Strike in less than a minute. Whether I went there to just hang with some friends (I’m pretty sure it was called “loitering” back then), to watch whatever baseball team was playing on the upper field or to fly a U-control airplane until I was too dizzy to stand up – most trips to the park would inevitably feature time spent climbing on top of the old rock war memorial wall with the thick bronze plaque mounted to its front.
For years, however, I was too young and short to climb that wall. But it never stopped me from trying. I vividly remember the day I was finally tall enough to actually scramble up on top of the thing, skinning knees and elbows on its rocky facade in the process. What a triumph – and from that day on I never missed the opportunity to climb up on top like Sir Edmund Percival Hillary summiting Everest. (Apparently I had a writer’s imagination even then.)
Fast-forward to my own child-raising years and the many hundreds of hours spent with our kids at Two Strike. Often, while playing on the basketball court near the memorial wall or throwing a Frisbee in the tall grass on the sloping hill it rested on, I would watch other generations of too-young, too-short kids try to scale that very same wall. I would silently cheer them on while remembering my own conquest so very long ago.
I should probably get all touchy feely and metaphoric at this point and talk about how – all this time later – I now see that the wall of my youth is like so many other walls I’ve encountered over the course of a lifetime. How something so seemingly tall and insurmountable becomes not-so-intimidating and less of a barrier with time, patience and effort. Whoa. Deep stuff.
But, no. I’ll leave that level of squishiness for Oprah, Ellen or Depak and simply wrap up by saying that, while I’m sad to see the old wall gone, I’m happy to know that an even larger memorial will soon rise in its place as a worthy tribute to local soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for their service to our country.
I have no idea what the new wall will look like or how tall it will be. But I’m kinda thinking that when it’s all finished, I may just have to sneak over there some evening and try to climb up on top of the thing.
I’ll see you ’round town.