A calm, bittersweet sort of feeling came over me as the Three Bears Park came into view. Eleven years later, I was finally back. We had endured over 13 hours of driving and Philadelphia’s brutal traffic to get here.
The city center was the worst of it. There were numerous cars and taxis driving in each other’s ways. People were walking in every direction imaginable. Some pedestrians were just short of getting run over by the cars, every single one of them on an impossible time crunch.
Yet here I was, walking toward my childhood park, putting everything else on hold for a bit. The cobblestone street leading up to the park was picturesque: there were town homes with blue, red and white doors. I’d forgotten how unique every house was, with their bright colors and one-of-a-kind architecture. There were trees and bushes lining the street, providing some much-needed greenery in a busy city. The sunset gave the street a golden glow.
I used to go trick-or-treating with my friends on this street every Halloween. People would sit outside their house and talk to children as they offered them candy. I was always scared of the skeleton decorations and cobwebs that lined each entryway.
As we walked around a stone wall, the park came into view. Three stone bears sat in the same place at the entrance, a cub and their parents. There were streaks of chalk on their backs and heads.
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We walked around in awe, taking it all in.
Green trees surrounded green-colored equipment. There was the tall, coiling slide I was always afraid to go on. There were the monkey bars I had tried to master day-in, day-out. There was the same bouncy bridge I ran across and the swings I swung on for hours. To the right was a mini courtyard where we would play ball games, draw with chalk and go on Easter egg hunts.
It hadn’t changed a bit.
My brother and I ran to the twin slides. We climbed up them and sat at the top. They were much lower to the ground than I had remembered. I looked around, remembering how my parents would sit on the benches by the stone wall to watch us play. I remembered how we used to be afraid to go up the different playground contraptions; it seemed as if we were on top of the world then.
But now, I was just a young adult, reliving my childhood in the span of 10 minutes. I would have loved to go back, be a child every day and play at this park every day. I only had these 10 minutes to be a kid again, though, and they meant everything to me.
After my dad took a picture of my brother and I at the top of the slide, we counted down. Three. Two. One. We propelled ourselves down the slide, sliding back to the present.
Isabella Vesperini (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and minoring in Italian.