We would sit every night at the dinner table talking about our day. Tom and Abigail on one side of the table and Anna and I on the other. Anna often needed to be reminded to stay seated, always finding a reason to get up and get something that was forgotten. Abigail liked to pick through her food, no mushrooms, onions or cooked carrots for her even if they were hidden deep inside that nights concoction. Our conversations were about friends, work, playdates and school. I loved this time during the day, everything slowed down as we shared a meal together. When we were almost done with dinner the plans for after dinner activities started to formulate: board games, dance parties and, more often than not, heading over to the District Office park for some hot lava tag.
After clearing the table and helping with dishes the girls would head over to Jacob and Michael’s house to see if they could play. After we finished the final touches of cleaning up the kitchen and tea was made, Tom and I would then make our way over to the play structure where we would find kids hanging, sliding and running from the “lava monster”, who was trying to tag someone while keeping their own feet on the ground. If the monster felt lucky they could hop up and try to tag someone as quickly as they could, only having 5 seconds, which was being counted off by all of the monster’s prey. Lots of laughter, and sometimes the occasional declaration of not feeling the game was fair, was heard by all the neighbors that lived around the park. So many good times were had in this space, the District Office playground, or what we like to call “our yard.”
Yesterday afternoon Tom and I met with a group of Anna and Abigail’s friends to begin planning the playground remodel. With tears in my eyes I told the kids that we needed their help to figure out what we should build. Their task was to draw their ideal playground, keeping Anna and Abigail close to mind while doing so. “Pie in the sky” I told them, whatever they would like to see – put that down on paper.
The talk around the table consisted of what my girls like to do while playing on the playground. Anna liked to swing, spin and climb. Abigail liked to play tag and “hang out” with her friends. Both girls loved being outside. One theme that emerged from a lot of the drawings was the idea of a giant tree with slides and zip lines coming from the top. There were some cool water features, rock walls and lots of ropes to hang from. I wish we could create every single drawing but I know that, when the kids sit down at the next meeting, with assistance from my new friend Martha, the Recreation Brands Group representative, and my dear friend Tom Gamble, they will begin to see their ideas merge together and begin to become a reality.
The thought of incorporating their friends into this process has been there from the beginning when we first thought this would be a perfect way of honoring our girls in their community. Tom and I could have gone through the books and picked out what we thought the girls would love but having the kids, Anna and Abigail’s playmates, be part of the process seemed to be a way to honor their friendships. Our girls have a lot of friends and they meant the world to them.
Photos taken by: Emma Gaty
This process of healing, engulfing yourself in meaningful purposeful work (thank you Amy), is what I find helps me through some of my emptiest times without my girls. Being able to provide this type of process to their friends feels good and also gives them an outlet to celebrate their friendships with Anna and Abigail. I’m already looking forward to our next meeting where we dig into the books and start piecing all their ideas together.
We are not just building a play structure but giving the whole park a makeover, ideas include a larger picnic area for community potlucks, birthday parties or for pre-teens to “hang-out”; decorated animal cut-outs that will line the fence, poles with long ribbon streamers to blow in the wind and a more universal surface so that all kids can access the play structure. We also plan on making the play structure itself accessible to all kids via ramps and other add-ons. These are just a few ideas we’ve had and I’m sure there will be more that come from the kids.
We are striving to make it the best community park EVER!
We are so grateful for all the support we have already received for this project: Donations by so many to the Dieter-Robinson Memorial Fund, Forest Grove Parks and Recreation, Forest Grove School District and Recreation Brands Group. If you are interested in helping or being part of this project in any way please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can get you on our email list.
We are amazed daily at the love and support we receive from our community. We are hoping that this park will not only honor our girls but give back to the community that has supported us through this journey.