Notes from the Small Pond: Skatepark redux
August 26, 2022
While adults never quite lose it, the intuitive, psycho-emotional trigger that gets pulled in kids around mid-to-late August is as keen as the intuitive trigger that gets pulled in geese two months later.
For geese, it’s: Fly South.
For kids, it’s: Have Fun. Squeeze every last pinch of summer out of Summer before the reality of September and Back-to-School accountability and order takes over.
Accountability and Order. …as mentioned, even adults never quite lose the aversion to either.
Earlier this week, at the skatepark on the corner of 14th Street and Prospect Avenue, just feet from where this writer once caught a Home Run Ball hit over the fence by a CHS baseball player named Something Johansen in about 1975, a gaggle of beautifully sweaty, stinky, bruised, mildly bloody, scabby, varyingly self-conscious kids — the same age I was when I caught that ball — zipped up and down the ramps, plummeted down, Dropped In, Ollied, fell down, bounced-back-up, complimented each other, teased each other, tested each other, respected each other, encouraged each other, implicitly threatened each other and, poetically choked out some of the few remaining magic moments, never-to-be-forgotten, of summer, 2022.
All the Adults Insane.
The older of them dimly aware that, soon, they’d be expected to weigh in. Choose a side.
The younger of them dimly aware that, soon, they’d be the older of them.
Parents at the perimeter, agog.
Grandparents at the perimeter of the perimeter, downright frightened, but dimly.
Somewhere in a yard a half-block away, a dog barks from her fenced-in universe and her voice ebbs, not echoing — nothing for the sound waves to bounce from. So she barks unendingly, hoping to hear herself.
“What’s yer name, Kid?”
“How long you been skateboarding?”
“Since last May or somewhere around there. Yeah, May, I think.”
“You any good?”
Mason’s two younger brothers lean in for his answer.
“I’m decent and better than I was last May.”
“Good answer. …I wish I could say that sentence and not have it be a lie.”
“How about you, what’syername?”
“Collin—his brother.” He nods at Mason.
“How old are you?”
“When’d you start?”
“Same as him,” he nods at his brother again.
“You were 4?”
Collin nods. His face gleams with sweat. His shins are a map of bruises and his hip is abraded, slightly bloody. Elbows.
“Ever wipe out?”
“Do you cry?”
“Sometimes, but only when it hurts.”
“So you’re the middle kid. What’s your name?”
“Cameron and I’m 10.”
“You like this park?” I’d uncorked the kid.
“I love it. We all do. We’re so lucky. In this small town to have a skate park like this…Without this, there’s no way we’d have progressed this far, this fast, and you can tell, day-by-day that all of us are getting better.”
Then he adds, as if daydreaming.
“I love summer.”
Keep in mind, the kid is 10. I’ve always been decent with words, but when I was 10, I’m pretty sure the phrase: “there’s no way we’d have progressed this far, this fast,” was in my tool kit.
Then the three of them are off, gliding and lilting and balancing and airborne and tumbling along with the dozen or more other Mini-Maniacs and their elder tutors.
The smell of Locker Room wafts in the air.
Erin Goetz is the mom.
“Gotta admit, I was a tad apprehensive when they all started to get into it. It started with them watching YouTube vids and eventually I realized, this is ridiculous; these boys should be outside all summer, not watching videos of other people doing what they could be doing. “
“Any misgivings since?”
“Not many. Except for the concussions.”
“Yes. Even with helmets.”
At this, the 5-year-old, Collin, the Eves-Dropper chimes in,
“Yeah, I got a forehead concussion!” He taps his forehead to show. Like the scene in JAWS when the shark hunters are on the boat, drunk and comparing war scars.
And Erin whispers,
“Forehead Concussion…Whatever that is…”
We watch her kids, and everyone else’s, for 10 minutes and the sound of wheels and the visual of youth-in-motion, and the feel of the humid August night planting sweat on the skin and not extracting it, like Arizona heat does, is, somehow, a poignant reminder that not long from now, once the geese decide, the very same location on Planet Earth will be absent these sounds, smells and sights, the air dry and cracking, cold; and this same time of day will be night.
“They grow up, don’t they,” Erin says, herself the age of my own.
“They do if they’re lucky,” and that may have been too much, so I add, “Yours are clearly lucky, and so are you.”
When the mosquitos descend,
my attention span wanes;
I’m not alone, car doors start slamming.
The adults take refuge in
A.C., closed windows
While the kids keep sweating and jamming.
At the old park at Wentworth,
The ghosts still collect
And mourn their bodies gone cold
And the hearts of their Mothers and
Fathers still break, for the
Lives once young and as bold
As the kids at the Skate Park Redux …
Cloquet‘s Parnell Thill is a previous “Columnist of the Year” winner in Minnesota. His opinions are his own, as are a few of the moments he describes to make his point. Contact him c/o [email protected].