Tommy's Playground

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
Children's story about a summer playground and friends.

Submitted: December 07, 2012

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Submitted: December 07, 2012

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My name is TOMMY, and that is all that you need to know about me for now.  The rest, will come once you join me on the playground.  The beauty of childhood is that each day begins and ends on your own personal playground.  That special place where all are welcome, and once you arrive, you never really have to ever leave.  The playground is what defines our restless innocent spirit and childhood.Do you have a favorite place to play?  A special playground where you like to run free and be as loud and genuine as you like?  What does your playground look like?This is the story of Tommy’s playground.

“”Tommy you have a summer morning recreation program that begins in thirty minutes, get down here and get some breakfast.”  That was my Mom, and she never had to bark twice, she made certain everyone heard her and of course carried thru on her plans for you.  I hurried tying my shoelace and headed down stairs only to  run into my younger brother slowly making his way down the staircase.  “”Get out of the way, I gotta get to the park” I barked at him as I shoved him aside and dropped past him quickly into the kitchen...

I never knew what the morning or afternoon would hold for me, I just knew where it was going to take hold of me, on the playground.  Tower Park was my playground.  It was a sprawling beautiful old park near the center of my small hometown called Fort Thomas.  There was a HUGE tall stone rock Tower that stretched into the blue sky and guarded the entrance to Tower Park,  and now guarded the entrance to my playground.  It even had a pair of canon guns alongside the rock tower so it must have been where soldgiers guarded the Fort back in the day.  I heard Tower Park used to be an old Army base for training soldgiers  and it was built a long time ago.  My favorite building inside the Fort, was a huge structure called The Armory.  I’m not sure what went on in there during the days of the old Fort maybe it’s where the army folks ate and gathered, but today it was home to 3 big hardwood basketball courts.  When you first walked into this  Armory, you were greeted with a  very special smell.  It just smelled I don’t know, kind of comfortable and made me feel really good.  The sound in there was especially cool too - balls bouncing on the hardwood and in there it echoed high into the rafters and then bounced back down to greet you.  Here,  you could find me each summer morning or afternoon.  Today would be no different. 

”Hey Tommy I wanna go to the park with you, MOM, he pushed me down!!” cried my brother as he pretended to fall down the last two steps.  “”Tommy you better not push your brother””  “”Oh I didn’t Mom – he slipped as I was moving past him – come on Jay you’re fine bro.”  And I pretended to care and pick him up and dust him off.  Mom was headed out the door to work so I grabbed a pop tart and ran out the door behind her.  I left brother Jay behiind and headed out the door to get to the park in time for my daily ritual of dominating all the other lesser talented kids.  I always planned on meeting two of my best buddies there,  Bobby & Brian.  They were also great athletes and loved to play in the park with me.

Once I got to the park this day, I saw that the recreational directors were busy at work setting cones up for some sort of junior Olympics track and field competition when in came Brian on his bike, “Tommy B, what’s up with me”?“No clue Brian, you tell me!”I yelled back at Brian as he brought his bike to a screetching halt, “what up what up “ and he extended his arm for our ritual handshake.  “Looks like Ashley is gonna run us through some sort of obstacle course today, you ready to get smoked?”“No chance my friend no chance” Obstacle course today?!  What the hell, didn’t we just do that last week?!”  This is so freakin lame-O.”  Yep, that was bobby and  said only as Bobby can.“Bobby,  if it were last week  I’d already be holding the 1st place trophy!”  “Whatever tommy today you’ll eat my dust, eat my dust.”  Bobby was always talking about someone eating his dust, but truth is,  he never minded who won far as I could tell.  He ALWAYS had a huge smile on his face and seemed like h never had a care in the world.  Maybe that’s why I love hanging with him so much...he talked a much better game than his actual game but Bobby was the best.  Another reason I loved Bobby, is he would say anything to anybody.  Seriously.  Do you have a friend or classmate like that?  Bobby was unpredictable.  You know what I mean?  You just never knew what he was gonna do or say.  I liked that.  Bobby was always coming at people in ways you would expect but you could NEVER predict.  That was my friend Bobby.

 “Hey Tommy you sign me up for the obstacle course!!??”  My brother Jay came rushing in on his bike completely out of breath. “Yes, yes Jay and you don’t need to sign up bro just be here and or course you’re here already Jay  stop worring jeez..”Younger brother Jay was always hanging around me, Bobby and Brian.  He just bugs me sometimes  cause he’s always five steps behind us.  “Hey little Jay,  you ready to eat my dust bro?” Leave him be now Bobby,  he’s just a tiny little thing”  says Brian,  ”I am NOT tell em Tommy,”  cried brother Jay.  “Boys now leave Jay alone, he is just a little ole thing and last one to the starting line is ROTTEN EGG!”  It was only morning,  but the July sun was already beating down on us like a shower of hot, gold sunshine and we were already sweating in our t-shirts. When the obstacle course competition finally got started,  it felt like it was 90 degrees and counting and it was still technically only morning.  But who keeps track of time when you’ve got an entire day ahead at the playground.  When  you’re at the playground,  there is no true sense of time.  It’s timeless, as it should be:  Timeless and perfect.  No start and end, just simply the joy of living and sharing time with friends on my playground.  It was perfect.

“92 seconds, a brand new Tower Park record for Tommy!”...Yeah baby,  I told you boys not to bother today.”“Hey, Ashley is that really a record”  “Sure is Tommy,  you beat Bobby’s time by 10 seconds and until your run  Bobby had the record!”“You kidding me? “ “Damn Tommy, you take all the glory from me!” cried Bobby, but once again he was smiling and laughing and kidding with me. “Now Bobby I’d never ever take any honors from you, that I didn’t earn of course.”  “Oh whatever,  hey we playing hoops this afternoon up the Armory right Ashley?”“You got it boys,  after lunch we’re headed up to the Armory for some hoops action and a free throw shooting contest”.  Ashley was the camp director and did an OK job keeping us all in line.  “Did you hear that Tommy, a free throw shooting contest!!”  “”Yeah sure I heard big deal.””Brother Jay was always confirming the agenda for the day, probably because he was afraid I’d forget and run home without him or something.  “Jay, I heard him bro and you’ll probably get to shoot from the little girls line for free throws.”  “Yeah, no doubt little man,” Brian joined in.  “I will NOT, you all know I can shoot from the real free throw line!”  “Lunch boys, it’s over in the park head over to the shelter and grab your sandwich and drink and sit down and eat.”  Ashley was busy putting away all the cones from the obstacle course and we all headed across the street to the shelter.  Lunch was a great time to cool off and wipe off.  Brian had mud all down the front of his leg from the obstacle course and was busy trying to wash it all off at the water fountain.  Little brother Jay was already grabbing a sandwich from the shelter cooler and saving seats for all of us.  “Hey you guys wanna sit over here with me, I saved this table.”  Funny my little brother always was trying to look out for me and I was always too busy to care.  “I ain’t gonna eat today, I gotta get up to the Armory gym and practice for the contest..”  Bobby was already jumping on his bike, running alongside it and headed up to the Armory.He was always moving somewhere, either coming or going.  Come to think of it, I don’t ever remember ever seeing Bobby eat anything sitting down unless it was a Snickers or Milky Way on his bike in front of a Convenient store.

Its hard for me to describe what I felt like when I walked into the Fort Thomas Armory.  It was so BIG it was like walking into a beautiful palace.  When you entered, you couldn’t help but try to look all the way to the very other side, where the snack bar extended out high above the basketball courts in the mezzanine area.Then the sound hit you.  It was so perfect.  Balls echoing off the hardwood and the squeal of sneakers, it all blended perfectly together in this vast space like an orchestra was playing high overhead or something.  It just felt so good t o me and filled my soul.  This was my home, this was Tommy’s Playground where all walks of life are welcome,  just bring you’re A game. 

All the kids began piling-in around me for the afternoon of basketball and the free throw contest.  Again, the Armory was so big it was large enough to comfortably house three full court basketball courts.  Then above the courts, on the opposite end of the entrance,  they built a snack and vending machine area where you could sit and watch all the action from above, and enjoy a sugar break.  This proved to be a great place to once again, eat our snacks we brought back from the convenient store.  “Hey Bobby  what you buy at the South Side mart”  “Well Tommy, I got NO Tootsie Rolls today bro sorry,  only one Milky Way for yours truly, I ran out of cash”  “Figures” Brian said, “when have you ever bought anything for us ?”  “Yesterday, I bought Tommy one of those little Tootsie rolls, remember Tommy?”, “yep  a whole two cents for that!”

“You’re welcome ,see Brian sharing is caring bro”  “whatever bobby we ate already so we don’t need no snacks!!  Anyway, we gotta shoot and get ready for the free throw contest any how”

“Yep, lets do it Brian,  hey Bobby  finish that damn Milky Way and get down here with us, you my friend will NEED the practice Bobby!!”  “Sure thing Tommy on my way, after this delightful Milky Way, you all practice up I’m sure you’ll need it when I get down there.”

Every time a ball bounced in the Armory the sound would echo  throughout the rafters and when we had thirty to forty kids all bouncing balls and running about, well you get the idea.  That mysterious and yet comfortable sound is what defines this playground.“Tommy did you sign me up? I wanna shoot in the contest too?”  “Jay  I don’t think your age category is having a contest, I think it’s only me and Bobby and Brian’s age category.“  “What? No way please – HEY Ashley – can my brother Jay shoot too?”

“Ashley – can Jay shoot in the contest?”  “Well we don’t have a prize for that age Tommy but sure I’m sure we can figure something out.”  “See Jay, you can shoot, all good brother, now let me get some practice in, go get a ball and start shooting over there.”

About this time of afternoon the sun was starting to settle into the West  and oh did it shine through the huge glass windows all throughout the Armory.  The windows were protected on the inside with a big metal grid – that hung down over the many panes of glass that ran all throughout the Armory.  It got HOT in there and very bright.  But that’s a playground right?  Lots of natural light, hot sun and oh so bright.  I think the heat added to the charming smell of this place, but not sure.  When it got too hot in the Armory we’d take our sweaty bodies over to the big metal grids that guarded the glass windows,  pull the hanging metal grid out  and prop it open with our butts.  Then,  we’d  lift,  on those heavy old big windows and slide the window up for air.  Next of course we’d stick our heads out the window and breath in the air.  “Holy crap,  hmmmmmm smell that clean air”  “Oh Bobby you’re always opening those windows and you aint even sweating”  “the hell I aint, what do u call this boy”  “that’s where u spit on yourself probably you ain’t sweatin yet, ” screamed back Brian.  “What’s the dif, let him open the window and jump out for all I care,  he ain’t gonna win the shooting contest”.  I was confident I was the best basketball player, and they all knew it.  “Tommy, now I’ve told you before , you MAY be the best baller in the Armory,  but dude you suck at free throws”  “NO HE DOES NOT,” yelled brother Jay from the sidelines,  “my brother can beat you with one hand bobby” “was I talking to you little Jay, now beat it  I was talkin to your stupid brother”  “He aint stupid either you are”  “oh for god’s sake,  Tommy  get your brother out of here will you”  “Jay, he’s kidding”  “no I’m not!” “Well anyway Jay,  go practice over there bro and we’ll come get ya when it’s your turn.”  And off went my brother Jay.  It was that easy, he was pretty easy going until Bobby would get him going & of course Bobby could get anyone going.

The free throw contest had started and I had about five people in front of me before I took my shot at the title.  10 free throws to win yet another blue ribbon and a cool little trophy.  Thing is I wanted that trophy, that validation, not to prove anything but I liked to win and felt it was my responsibility to win.  It’s what I did and I was good at it.  I knew I could do it and impatiently waited for my turn at the free throw line.  Now there was only 1 person in front of me and he barely made contact with the rim.  My turn.  My friends were watching from the next court,  “Hey Tommy, take your time and do your thing  you can do it!” yelled Brian  “Yeah hurry up I wanna get a drink!” yelled Bobby.  My brother had taken a seat under the basket with the rest of the younger campers  and I stepped to the line.  I only had to make 9 of 10, the best for the day was only 8 out of 10 so I knew I could do it.  My first five shots were perfect but on the 6th one,  too far, and it smacked-off the back of the rim.  “Shit” OK I’m good.  I’ll make my next four.  Only four to make and I bring home the title and trophy.  Only four to make and I can leave a champion.  But somehow, my next shot came up short, I couldn’t believe it.  I could see my brother under the basket was in disbelief.  The best I could do is tie at this point.  I focused and shot the next shot, that fell short again.  I was out.  I finished the last two shots quickly,  and hustled up to the snack area level, pretending to get a drink.  But I was devastated.  Tears were starting to form in my eyes, and I quickly got over to the soda vending machine and leaned against it and quickly wiped the tears from my eyes.  How could this happen, I always make my free throws.  With my head down, leaning against the machine I tried to gather myself and pretend to survey the soda selection.  There was a tug at my shorts and I wiped another tear from my eye and keeping my head down,  saw my little brother lean under my arms so he could see me.  “Tommy here is my drink, you can have it.”  “I don’t want your damn drink Jay, leave me alone, I’ll get my own”  “OK Tommy, but you can have this one I’ll leave it right here, and he scurried away, leaving his Gatorade on the floor next to my shoe.  I wiped the final tear and glanced down at his  soda and peeked up to watch him as he was about to run down the steps.  “Hey Jay, thanks,  for the drink”.  Jay paused at the step and shot me a look - “You’re welcome Tommy,  can we go home soon  I’m hungry and wanna eat.” 

I learned a valuable lesson that day on Tommy’s Playground.  You don’t always have to win,  you don’t have to be the champion,  for your friends and family to love & embrace you.  My little brother proved that to me.  “Hey Jay lets head home, it’s getting late and I’m hungry too bro.”  Jay smiled at me and I smiled back at him as he ran down the steps back to the gym floor.  I stood and watched him gather his things for our journey home and began to realize one very important thing about playgrounds.  It’s not the size of playgrounds or collection of chatter and noise or even the warm comfortable feelings that embrace us that make our playgrounds so special.  It’s the LOVE that begins to take hold of us there, that we grow, harvest & share with others.  Love is what  defines our playgrounds.  The Love of the game, the love of friends, and especially the love and respect you have for each other.  That is what makes childhood playgrounds so very special.  Brother Jay loved me, whether or not I won or lost that day, and his soda offering was an attempt to soothe the bitter taste of defeat.Perhaps Tommy’s playground is MORE than this charming old Armory gym after all.  Perhaps playgrounds transcend childhood, and become our lifelong journey with friends & loved ones, like brother Jay.


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