I was born in an urban neighborhood filled with leafy parks. The playgrounds were filled with other little kids, and my parents and grandparents sat on those traditional outdoor benches while I climbed on monkey bars and ran through the sprinklers.
It wasn’t long before I headed off to school. Our school didn’t have a real playground; after lunch we ran around in the church parking lot. If you found room on one of the outdoor benches for yourself and your best friend, you could share a secret or two, confide in a fear, or share some wonderful news.
I moved into my high school years, and met my first boyfriend. To make the most of our time together, we walked to the park on the far side of town and sat there together. On the outdoor benches in Averill Park, we spent four years together-it’s where he gave me his school ring, talked about getting married, and eventually, broke up.
I moved away to college, and I found that I had to learn to maneuver the public transportation system in a strange city. I spent many afternoons sitting on the outdoor benches at the city bus stops, waiting for the campus buses to pick me up. I waited there as a nervous freshman, and I rode the city buses to my first jobs after graduation.
My college campus had a huge podium overlooking the spectacular fountains that flowed from April until November. The outdoor benches on the podium is where my fellow students met after classes and crammed for exams. While I sat on the outdoor benches on the podium, I ran into my freshman roommate just before graduation, and I met a date for the movie in the lecture center on a Friday night.
After graduation I took a job at a nearby college and started graduate school. During the warm weather months, I would take my lunch outdoors and enjoy sitting on one of the outdoor benches across from the entrance of my building. It’s the place where I would get better acquainted with the people who worked in my office, and entertain a flirtation with another grad student.
A new job out of graduate school moved me to Florida, and I was thrilled to live so close to the beaches that other people only get to visit on vacations. I walked those beaches with a wonderful new man, and while we sat on outdoor benches and watched at the waves, we talked about a future together.
Our life together gave us two beautiful daughters, and the double stroller got quite a workout. We lived in a small beachfront town, and one of our favorite pastimes was walking on Center Street and enjoying ice cream cones on the outdoor benches that lined the sidewalks. The girls got older, and we made regular visits to the world-class theme parks that were not too far away. Those amusement park visits were punctuated by stops on their outdoor benches, where we took a rest and took a photo or two.
Decades pass quickly, and life changes. I was single again, and trying on new people in my life. At the age of 51, I sat on one of the outdoor benches in my neighborhood and was asked to be someone’s steady girlfriend. It was on one of those outdoor benches, too, that we eventually talked about why it wouldn’t work. But just last weekend, I took a long evening walk with a new prospect. I bet you can imagine where that stroll around the neighborhood ended…