Bar tours? SOOOO yesterday. Nope, the new thing in my middle-aged life is PLAYGROUND tours. Yep, each day after daycare when the weather is agreeable, Claire and I set off to a different playground. We definitely have our favorites---Northwest Park and behind Hannah More School. These are favorites because they have swings. Claire requires swings. A swing-less playground is a half star rating on Claire's Zagat Playground Survey. She's a little high maintenance when it comes to equipment.
So we've been hitting the same four spots this summer, and I decided it was time to shake things up a bit. I did a little Web-based research and came across a playground at the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills that is open to the public (i.e., Gentiles can enter the premises). So I buckled Claire into the car after daycare and off we went.
I have never been to the JCC (I feel I'm hip enough to use the acronym), and I don't know what I was expecting. But dang, this place was impressive! It gave the impression of a campus. I drove around aimlessly a while looking for the telltale signs of a playground but came up empty. Finally I spotted one behind a tall fence, but the gate was locked. Claire was less than happy at this point.
I was determined to succeed. Like Moses across the desert, I marched onward. I hauled Claire into the main building and asked the nice boy behind the desk where the playground was. Straight down the steps and out the door and he would buzz me in. Buzz me into the playground? Uh, OK. We were let into a fairly boring area with wimpy slides and most importantly, no swings. Claire ran around for a bit but this was way too tame for her. I could tell she couldn't spot anywhere she could potentially climb where she'd risk falling and cracking her head open, so what fun was this? Before I could see what was happening, a couple was leaving the playground with their child, Samara (I know her name because her mother said it every two minutes, obviously proud of her exotic name choice. I didn't have the heart to tell her it sounded like a stripper's alias). All of the sudden Claire squeezed past Samara and took off outside of the playground. Why oh why does my life constantly resemble an "I Love Lucy" skit, with me running like a loon after this little three-foot Wilma Rudolph?
Needless to say, the gate to the playground shut behind me and we were locked out. I had to break the news to Claire, and that realization crept across her face slowly and I assure you, went over like a ton of bricks. At that moment I spotted what looked like a children's kingdom past the pool, and I quickly tried to save face and yanked her over to the pool admission gate. The sullen 15-year-old pool attendant told me we could go back, and off we went to playground #2, buzzed in again, of course.
The "kingdom" turned out to be a large playground constructed entirely of wood and tires. Claire's eyes lit up like Christmas and she began climbing up tire ladders and asking me to help her. All it took was one attempt down a tire ladder where the 2-year-old hops down like an agile bunny and the Mommy trips and falls through a tire hole and I was sidelined. I then started glancing around at the equipment. There were signs everywhere. This one was Noah's Ark. Another apparatus was talking about Rosh Hoshannah. The large covered slide was something about Jonah the Whale. And then there was the kicker, a sandbox shaped like the Star of David. Oy vey!
I suddenly felt like I had two heads, and neither of them were wearing a yarmulke. I noticed a bunch of little kids with t-shirts on with embroidered Hebrew script. The kid on the swing had payot (side curls) and looked unhappy with life. The pre-teens on the tire pile were trying to figure out of Leeza was related to Simon Lieberman. Dorothy, I don't think I'm in Sacred Heart of Glyndon anymore!
All in all, Claire very much enjoyed the hollowed out tire swings as well as eavesdropping on Leeza's conversation with her peeps. I caught myself asking Jesus to protect her on the big slide and wondered if I somehow would be mysteriously knocked in the head by a falling tire. When it was time to leave, we were buzzed through more security gates than the BWI airport and finally were back to our car going home to the Promised Land.
Our next planned stop on the playground tour is at McDonough School...tune in to see if the white trash detector catches me trying to enter the grounds of the exclusive, LaCoste-and-Land Rover school and ejects me into the middle of a Super Walmart.
Either way, Claire and I will keep on swingin'.