Yesterday I was earlier than I normally am (which is usually late) to pick up my kids from school. They all happily attend the same school that I attended from Kindergarten through the sixth grade. My kids sit in the same class rooms, play in the same school yard, go to the same chapel, and have physical education class in the same gym that I played in when I was a child. When I arrived early I had my younger son Jovan with me. It was a perfect day outside so I asked him if he wanted to play on the playground. He was stoked. So we joined my daughter's kindergarten class for the last few minutes of their end of day recess on the jungle gyms, parallel bars, monkey bars and swings. It was sweet to see my daughter playing with her friends, including her brother and everyone having a good time.
Then I realized something as I stood next to the monkey bars. These bars seem to be in the same place that they were when I was a child. I didn't realize this until I was next to them. Everything looks so different but I believe the monkey bars and the parallel bars and the balance beam are all in the same spot that they have always been. Now there is mulch laid down so that kids don't die when they fall (we just had grass in the iron age). But other than the new equipment and new sports fields, I don't think the monkey bars every moved. I am not sure anyone could move them - they are made of iron and cemented into the ground. In my realization I felt a sort of homesickness.
I watched as my son played on the same parallel bars that I played on the night before I was to go into the hospital in the 2nd grade and have my tonsils removed. I took a closer look at the monkey bars and realized that they had been painted over many, many times. I could see the layers of paint chipped away revealing the age and years of the iron bars. Jovan continue to play, swing, and jump from gym to gym.
So many memories came flooding back to me as I thought about the thousands of little children that used to play on that playground and the thousands more that will continue to play. I thought about all my friends in elementary school. I thought about the countless recesses we had, field days, and boys chase girls games we had. I thought about kick ball, races, and swinging as high as we could. I thought about my first playground fight and my second one too. I thought about what life was like 30 years ago.
It made me sad, happy, glad, joyful, and homesick all at the same time. My son looks a lot like me. He acts a lot like me. As I was wishing to go back in time I realized how great it was that I was on this same playground watching my son play on the same bars that I played on 30 years ago and having just as much fun.
Today, I'm thinking about my brother Mark which is why I was getting emotional over monkey bars. Today is his birthday. He would have been 36 years old, but instead he died in a tragic car accident at 16 years old. I played Star Wars and GI Joe on those bars with my brother Mark and his best friend Ryan. My best friend Chuck and I would race big wheels and later bicycles up and down that parking lot back and forth to our dad's softball games in the back fields.
I miss those days. I miss the simplicity. There is something that longs for the past and the way things used to be. But there is also the desire to see my kids make the memories that God has in store for them in the same way that He gave me the experiences that I had.
Yesterday, I made more memories. My son might one day return to the same monkey bars and playground and I hope he remember his past as fondly and with as much joy that I remember mine. My hope is that he has less pain and that he doesn't have to go through the things that I went through. But at the same time, I know that the trials God has given me are producing perseverance, character and hope. As I long for the past, I am reminded that the world is spinning toward the day when Jesus makes all things new and the past is redeemed. I think those monkey bars will still be there - fresh paint and all.