My childhood playground stood across the street from my childhood home and occupied the park of my elementary school, P.S. 15:The Jackie Robinson School. The kids in my hood called it “15-Park” On warm fall and spring days, 15-park was filled with kids from all over the northside of Queens. But 15-park was my favorite place to be during the summer vacation. The sprinklers would be on, Mr. Softee would be out and I would be in 15-park having the time of my life.
For me,15-Park symbolized self-discovery.
I viewed the playground as a paradox --complex and daring in structure but full of adventure and as an only child, another opportunity to make friends.
If I wasn’t at the track, you could find me at the park competing against the boys, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, doing backflips off the slide, popping wheelies; whatever it was, I was up for it. The playground is where I discovered my athleticism, competitive edge, and mental toughness. It was normal for me to end my days with bruised knees, twisted ankles, and hardened calluses. And I would be ready to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
In any case, 15-park felt like home. The kids around my way didn't force me to be girly or show up as anyone other than myself. They saw past my tomboy exterior which unlocked another door to my unapologetic spirit.
It's funny how life comes full circle. As a child, I felt a unique sense of belonging to "my park" that surpassed the surface layer of friends and fun. As an adult, I now understand that it is human behavior to seek solace in places and people that bring us peace and reinforce self-acceptance.
This photoshoot filled me with nostalgia. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self a few words of wisdom it would be, "Home is not where you live, it's where they understand you."