“About thirty years…” I think to myself. I am sitting in a small park in a fashionable town 20 miles north of Chicago. It’s a nice day. The grass is green, the sun is out, and there is a steady but gentle breeze. The sun makes me glad I am outside; the breeze makes me appreciate the light jacket that I brought along with me.
Its lunchtime and the people around me are divided between the warm and the cold. The café that I walked past a few minutes ago looked near capacity inside, but there were three or four tables of diners outside on the patio. They defiantly browsed their menus, enjoying the sun and refusing to be confined indoors for lunch any longer. They seemed to be pleased by the promise of many bright days in the months ahead. In the park, the people are stratified between the sun and the shade. There are many people like me who find it an excellent day to sit in the park. Some of us sit in the shade while others strategically position themselves in the sun.
There are eight ornamental, metal benches around a small green space. The benches are set at an appropriate distance from one another, but not more than thirty feet apart. I am at one end of my bench, in the shade but the portion in the sun looks inviting. About half of the benches are occupied, until one person stands up to leave. The woman hesitates then proceeds on her way. Those of us remaining on the benches pity her, leaving this setting to return to work or errands or to pick up her children. We are all grateful that we have a few more minutes before we go back to the same general class of responsibility.
The space is rectangular, situated adjacent to one of the busier streets in this small, exclusive town. There are several cars that drive by, but not enough to be considered “traffic”. A black Range Rover, then a silver Porsche, followed by another Range Rover. The details of this scene insist: “money”. The area is polished and clean, but not perfect. The grass area in front of me is picturesque, but there are patches of grass that look to have been recently reseeded. There is a yellow rope staked around the perimeter, and a green sign with polite white letters: “Please Keep Off”.
“I can’t believe it, I really can’t! She really said that! I need to take a Xanax!” I overhear a woman remark to her friend behind me. They get into their car quickly behind me. I don’t turn to look at them, but my guess is that it is another new Land Rover. I move across my bench from the shade into the sun. The chill from the breeze is instantly melted by the sun on my black jacket. I see that I was wrong as the two women drive off and turn a corner; it was a BMW sedan.
I notice the fountain at one end of the park strip, then the American flag at the other. The flag is fixed to a pole on top of a decorative stone base. The bricks in the path surrounding the grass strip catch my eyes once again. They are not new by any means, but they look nice. They are relatively clean, and retain a dark shade of red despite years of exposure to the sun and the rain. The edges of each brick are slightly worn and degraded as they meet the next brick in the “interlocking L” pattern. They are old enough to be slightly worn, but do not appear to show signs of more serious degradation…“about 30 years” I estimate.