When I suggested we take the family to Tuckahoe State Park’s tire playground last weekend, I had ulterior motives: an additional five minutes’ drive would bring us to the Arboretum’s Funshine Garden, which was in dire need of attention prior to spring planting. My husband graciously agreed to stop by the Funshine Garden first and lend a hand.
Within seconds of disembarking, the children—my three plus a family friend—were off to visit the goats. Gabe and I set to work pruning and weeding, the sun warm on our backs as we bent over the beds. Soon the children returned to dig in the sand, pick mint, and scrutinize the vole holes that crisscrossed the beds. Countless treasures were discovered: a grubby plastic dragonfly left from last year’s summer camp, slug eggs beneath a tree stump stool, and a piece of polished blue glass that had worked loose from a stepping stone.
Paths beckoned. Our garden work over, we entered the forest for a walk along the Tuckahoe Creekside path. I don’t normally walk this far with my young students and was intrigued by the new wood duck boxes near the creek. My husband and I watched from a bench as the kids teetered across a fallen tree, taking bets on who would fall in first. Spring peepers sang from the trees.
Finished with her gymnastic adventures, our youngest begged for a visit to Paw Paw Playground. We carried her on our shoulders as the older children ran ahead to gather charcoal “war paint” from the fire pit. I made a mental note to contact a local Boy Scout for wigwam repairs, and we watched an early butterfly alight on the woodland path in search of minerals.
When we finally made our way back to the car, the day was growing late. It was time to return the spare child to her home. I waited for the inevitable whine of missed opportunities as we drove past the tire park. But for once, all was quiet in the peanut gallery.
by Jenny Houghton, Youth Program Coordinator