Parks provide life lessons, as well as recreation


When I was about 13, my family spent long Sunday afternoons at the park.

My dad and his buddies from work would make carne asada, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. My Jefita and the other moms would swat flies away from bags full of Butter Krust buns, pieces of watermelon and orange Tupperware bowls filled with potato salad. My little brother would play baseball with the other kids whose parents hauled tons of stuff to an open greenspace so their little ones would entertain each other instead of bothering them.

But I walked. I walked around the park with other girls my age, looking to flirt with boys my age. Sometimes we’d find a few playing baseball, and sometimes we’d find them on lawn chairs under a tree. Sometimes they saw us looking at them and smiled back, giving us something to giggle about for the next week. Other times, they ran away.


But between the chance meetings, we walked and talked. We talked about fashion the way young women do when they first figure out they can choose what they’re going to wear. In those days, we compared Jellies to Kaepas, Bermudas to knickers, Izods to Polos, all the way around the park. We had long conversations about “The Karate Kid” and “Romancing the Stone” and whether the lead singer of Journey was anything to look at while ice cream trucks sold us Push-Ups and Drumsticks. After spending hours walking the park, we watched the sun set as we choreographed dance routines in the covered pavillion to songs on a homemade cassette someone taped off the radio.

At the time, I wasn’t thrilled about those Sundays. Other than having dads that worked together, I didn’t have much in common with those girls, and conversation was stiff and awkward for the first hour of every Sunday we spent together. But, because we were American teenagers thrown together for hours, we were forced to find things we had in common. Looking back, I credit those days with so many life lessons about meaningful small talk, finding happiness in the little things and getting along.

I was reminded of those days when I read about the linear parks and trails surrounding San Antonio, such as the Greenline at Brooks, a 43-acre greenspace in San Antonio’s Southeast side. The Greenline is set to connect to the San Antonio River Mission Reach through a project which MySA.com staff writer Pricilla Aguirre reported should wrap up around mid-October, just when the weather ought to be getting nice and breezy.

There’s lots to do at parks, especially ones that provide places to grill and tables on which to eat, places to catch and release fish, and fields where families can toss around a Frisbee. But parks provide the perfect backdrop for long, winding conversations about everything, especially in an era when technology keeps us all behind a screen for a big part of the day. They’re the ideal place to form new friendships and catch up on old ones.

The pandemic was hard on young people, who are still trying to make sense of social distancing. But the paths to clever conversation and people skills are still out there.

mariaanglinwrites@gmail.com



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