A DAY AT THE PARK . (An Ongoing Love Story)
About 33 years ago when I was in my mid thirties, my marriage was on it's way down the tubes for years I suppose, it was just a matter of time. One day a business associate of mine brought me to his new office complex to show me around and while walking down a hall past assorted offices, I had less than 2 seconds to glimpse a secretary sitting behind her desk in one of the offices. I remember bending over backwards while walking in order to extend my view another millisecond or two. Her name was Peggy.
I can still picture her sun yellow, shoulder length hair framing her beautiful face and ending up bracketing her rather healthy cleavage which seemed to possess it's own light source at the moment. That's all it took, less than two seconds and my life was changed forever.
By the way, already an accomplished artist, she drew her self portrait you see shown here.
I don't believe I got to see her again that day but we both worked for two closely related companies about 20 miles apart so as time went on we did get to see each other once in a while and spent a lot of time talking on the phone. There were obvious major voids in my love life for many years and it turns out, before long, she had actually separated from her husband as well. Both of us had kids and never even thought of anyone else outside our marriages but I'm here to tell you, Mother Nature will have her way with you in the event your relationship is lacking certain long term prerequisites, one way or the other, sooner or later.
6 Months down the road I couldn't handle it any more. I asked her to stop by where I worked on her way home with the intent of telling her how I felt about her. She did and I did although it wasn't easy at all. I remember seeing my tee shirt throbbing up and down from my out of control heart beat. I apologized many times for being “out of line” if you will, considering the circumstances on both our sides and insured her I had no intentions of doing or being anything else to her in the future. I just wanted her to know that I thought she was one of the most incredible human beings I'd ever known. Her stunning beauty, her incredible gentleness, her fun loving demeanor, her interest in my world and a hundred other accolades I still haven't figured out. On top of everything else she was a classy dresser with a great bod to boot. I remember the first time we went out to a park together she had on tight fitting blue jeans and a denim jacket with a big spider web embroidered on the back with her long golden hair swishing back and forth against the blue denim. I recall asking myself: “ How the hell did I manage to wind up with this gorgeous creature?”
Another 6 months down the road we were still two individuals but with one soul. A metamorphosis had taken place that bonded two human beings into one. Walking on the beach, holding hands, we didn't even speak for a half hour sometimes. We didn't need too. Words were primitive and superseded by our new born singularity and were totally content just to be together. A year or so passed while we did what we could to be together, we also wanted our perspective families to somehow succeed if for nothing else than for the sake of our children. It's a perplexing situation to be in I can assure you. There was a particularly beautiful park close to both of us we used to meet at to play tennis, hold hands and walk through the woods contemplating the wonders of nature and we even did a lot of treasure hunting with my metal detector. It became “our” park and it was a fun year but troubled by indecision. Eventually, I decided to move my 4 children to Florida for the good life and to get them away from the on going insanity of my marriage which I did. Peggy and I also planned for her to sell her house and to move to Florida with her two kids and raise them all in an atmosphere of love and devotion they all deserved, kind of like the Brady Bunch.
It may or may not have been a good plan but it never came to fruition for many reasons and over the next 30 years, we drifted further and further apart, never to hold hands on the beach again and that's what this story is all about now that you know the basics.
Eventually we both got divorced, finished raising our children as single parents while our love became more and more of a fairytale memory over the decades. 30 years is a very long time.
Last year I decided to drive up to north Jersey to help one of my kids get his new manufacturing business going. Shortly after I got there, I sent Peggy a letter to her last known address and suggested we get together over a cup of coffee. She called me after a while and agreed thinking it might be a fun idea and invited me up to her new home on Greenwood Lake. When she opened the door I was shocked to say the least. My beautiful little girl of yesteryear was about 30 pounds overweight and even had a few wrinkles here and there.
Then again, I was now 69 and not near what I used to look like either. We spent the day together hashing over old times and that was that for the winter. Driving on flat, dry land for the last 30 years, I wasn't too interested in mountains, snow and ice. She drove down a couple weeks ago to drop off some coins and things I was to sell for her on Ebay and we went out for a pizza and had a pretty good day together.
My job here, just about done, I decided to go home to Florida where I belonged as Peggy now had her own world which she enjoyed with lots of friends, her new home on the lake, a great job and a way of life she enjoyed. Much different from my Florida lifestyle which I enjoyed as well.
We had to meet one last time so she could pick up her money and the things that didn't sell. Just yesterday, she drove down again and after finishing the Ebay stuff and going to the bank we were going to a diner and get something to eat and that would have been that except I suggested to her we find the old park we spent so much time in while not knowing if it was even still there or not. It took us a half hour to find it but it was looking even better than I had remembered over the years. Walking around that park yesterday with Peggy was an unbelievable experience 30 years later remembering the things we did back then and reliving a wondrous year we spent there. The rest of this story and the pictures I took yesterday recall the things we did, things that happened and where in the park they happened.
The very first thing I had to check out was a tree up on a hill I remember carving something on. I can't remember what I carved but I was surprised to see it was still there more than 30 years later. I also located the area by a walkway where I came up there by myself one day and planted a pine tree for a Christmas present that I had to borrow a pic ax from “Sarge” the park custodian to dig up the frozen ground with. I had a nice round rock in front of it with a brass plaque attached that read “Peggy's Tree” and the date. My plan was to be walking by our new tree one day and say “Hey, check it out” If she didn't notice it herself. It turned out she never got a chance to see it. Some creep stole it that night and most likely used it for a Christmas tree. Bummer!
Speaking of “The Sarge”, long gone now I'm sure. An interesting, kind of sad old man with many stories to tell that kept us out in the freezing weather one day until frostbite was becoming a possibility. (You have to understand, at this early stage in our relationship, I hadn't laid a hand on her and respected her in that way with my typical 50's upbringing and ways.) Frozen to death, after finally leaving The Sarge, we both went running back to her car I believe, she jumped in the drivers side and and started the car and heater while I got in the passenger seat. No consoles then, she immediately jumped on top of me just to get some body heat and I instinctively slid both my frozen hands down her elastic pants and latched an incredibly warm butt. She squealed a bit do to my frozen hands and I recall saying to myself: “ohhhh lord” after realizing just exactly where my uninvited hands were. She didn't mind and I certainly didn't but it was still funny that neither of us knew we were well past that innocent stage of the relationship.
This next pic is of a lone tree each of us used to sit at while we waited for the other to show up at the park. Lots of memories there as well and the tree still stands all by itself just as it did 30 odd years ago almost like it was waiting for us to return. Old Mother Nature is a hell of a lot more resilient than we fragile humans are for sure.
Next is an area where we used to lay down a blanket right at the edge of a bubbling stream where we used to pull up a clump of grass and try to visualize the lives of all the microscopic creatures that lived in and around the grass. That was nice sucking up the rays and being way out and away from other humans. Now the stream has become a small river and the park let the bushes and trees grow out from the bank about 50 feet I guess to keep the kids from even getting close.
If you look at where the grass line is at the back of this picture is where there used to be a log fence. I set Peggy up on it one day to take a bunch of pictures of her sitting on it. After that, I moved her to to a tree to the far right and sat her down in front of it where I kind of mingled some bush leaves in around her golden hair to make a more nature like scene. I remember her complaining I was going to give her poison ivy or something and me countering “don't worry about it, you'll be alright”. A day later she was itching like a man on a fuzzy tree with yup, you guessed it...poison ivy. Never did hear the end of that one.
The picture with all the picnic tables was where we used to do a lot of treasure hunting. I was already an expert and this one day I showed her how to work the detector and she started scanning away like a pro and within seconds, she got a hit. She knelt down stuck her screwdriver in the ground and came up with a large mans, sterling silver ring inlaid with turquoise gem stones hanging right off the end of the damn screwdriver. I couldn't believe my eyes. First try at metal detecting, first hit, and she didn't even have to dig anything, she skewered the ring with one stick. Incredible!
See the tennis courts? This is my favorite story I guess but one had to be there to appreciate it for what it was I guess. The ultimate, all time, world wide, rat bastard cheat tactic ever committed on anyone, anywhere, ever. We were playing tennis on the court to the left one day and although I was faster and stronger than her, she consistently beat me due to her abilities and the professional training she was enrolled in for some time. This day, I was at the far end of the court and Peggy's back was at the park side. I was winning by a small margin but winning non the less. That day I wasn't about to get creamed again especially by a girl.
It was match point and I was getting ready to serve looking down at the foul line where my foot was, bouncing the ball a few time and looking up from time to time to judge the target just about ready to throw the ball into the air which I did hoping to end the game with a bullet like ace John Macinrow would have missed but the ball fell to the ground unchallenged followed shortly by my racket and then my now flaccid arms all hooked to a body and face that was almost catatonic. The very second before I was about to whack the now air born ball into the record books I found myself staring at an exception pair of female hooters presented to me with outstretched arms holding open a white shirt that served as a perfect background for her now fully exposed boobs. Well of all the miserable, lousy, cheating, underhanded things to do just to win a tennis game, this one has got to take the international cake. It worked well too, I was destroyed in a flash, with a flash...literally! She went on to win the game if you can call that winning. It was an underhanded, rotten thing to do but cute non the less.
As many times in the past after leaving the park, we went on to have a great meal at the same booth lined restaurant we had been to so many time before 30 years ago. Back then practical jokes were a way of life and one day at this restaurant in a booth while waiting for our order, she said “By the way, did you see my new flower ring? Smell it” she said as she offered it to me still on her finger. I should have known better but as I attempted to smell it, she squeezed the water bulb she had concealed in her hand expecting to nail me in the face but the squeezing action caused her hand to move and she blasted a group of business men in the next booth right behind me. One guy got most of it right on the back of his neck. Lucky I got out of there alive.
All in all, reliving the things we did at that park 30 years ago was an incredible, almost eerie, experience that I will never forget. Who knew? Who would have thought?
Although 30 years older now and a little too chubby, Peggy is still the girl I fell in love with 30 something years ago and while she sat in her car getting ready to go home, it came time to say goodby once again, I couldn't. I couldn't even face her let alone kiss her goodby, not again. Tearing up rapidly, I just asked her to remember that no one has ever loved her more. I squeezed out a semi intelligible “see ya” and walked away. She said “I've always loved you” as I walked my way into probable oblivion.
I guess we did the right thing, our 6 kids all grew up to be intelligent, well adjusted, decent and respectful citizens and most have their own families now. One of Peggy's kids, Michael, is even up for an Emmy award this year for photography work he does for NASA. Our ex's are happy with their new found friends and that's all that matters isn't it? Still have to grin a bit knowing that the kids haven't the slightest idea what the next 30 years in their lives will bring. In their 30's and 40's now, they've only just begun.
Who knows, 30 years from now, Peggy and I may meet again in wheel chairs and walkers on another infamous and unexpected............. day at the park...