Sunday, September 5, 2010

Montrose Park 40 years later

Back in 1969, my friends and I used to spend a lot of time at Montrose Park and Dumbarton Oaks. We shared a group house near Dupont Circle usually mobbed by other friends from other universities, all arriving for another march against the war (Vietnam).

Spending time at the park seemed to solve every problem. Apartment full of people? Go to the park. O Street tear-gassed by police in riot gear? Go to the park. Somebody's trip ending badly? Over the bridge to the park. Studying for a final on Romantic poets? The hill behind Dumbarton Oaks was perfect for reading Keats outloud, especially when the big cherry tree turned all ethereal and angelic in early spring.

Now skip forward 40 years or so . . . Today is September 5, 2010. I'm up early and out in the yard picking up the Sunday paper. And I'm thinking about Montrose Park! Maybe it's the cool weather, the sunshine, the rustling leaves. And oh, my son turned 30 yesterday. That's a mind-altering moment.

Maybe that's why I find myself driving down Rock Creek Parkway, passing the back entrance to the zoo, getting off at the P Street exit. Here I am parking in front of Katherine Graham's old house on R Street. No idea who lives there now, but cars are in the driveway.

I'm across from the cemetery.

Down the brick sidewalk, I see the entrance to the park hasn't changed. The swings are still there, the tennis courts, the big expanse of grass, and the wise old trees. Everybody's here. And I'm here as if it were only a day or two gone by instead of 40 years. I recognize the biggest tree along the main pathway. Leaning up against it, I can feel the bark warm through my t-shirt. Leaves are quaking. Do they all know I'm back?

As the song goes, time is a river . . . well, time is also this park. Familiar, sweet, safe. The children's play area is fenced in now.

Yesterday, my son and I sat on his couch and looked at some of his baby pictures. Many photos of him and his big sister. A kindergarten photo with the green and blue stripped shirt his grandma gave him one Christmas. A 5th grade class photo with that bad boy whose name I can't remember. Pandora. Barney. Scout as a tiny pup.

Today, is a milestone. Not sure why, but I don't think that matters. It's just a happy day at the park.