As Family Prepares to Move Away, a Mother & Children are Inspired by New Covington Playground
As I say goodbye to Covington, after spending the last six years living downtown, I found myself overcome with a tender moment of inspiration that could very well be a glimpse into a most promising future for this endearing community and for its families.
Today, I took my two three-year-old twins Arthur and Beatrice to the new Goebel Park playground for the first time and I saw something magnificent. I saw a local and diverse community at play with each other under the cool sunset at the end of a workday with children of all ages and races rejoicing in the moment. Happy children of all ages outnumbered contented adults as they swung, slid and climbed the painted metal of a brand new playground.
The new layout includes a spaghetti jumble of jungle gyms, slides, swings, monkey bars, mushroom chairs, a blue and white toucan and a bright yellow chickadee on taut springs, a clever dragonfly seesaw, a forest of bright coniferous trees sprouting from the freshly laid mulch and perhaps the unintentional bonus for the boys were the two huge piles of stone and dirt that they climbed in fraternity.
From the moment we crossed the street from the Mainstrasse Promenade, Arthur and Beatrice ran for this utopian plain and got lost in the cacophony of spritely children moving in all directions, quick like flashes of light. I saw familiar faces but I also stood in the midst of many new people. It was a moment of delight and discovery and one that realized something not seen in this part of the City since I came here in 2008, maybe even longer than that.
I was able to speak with a few of the adults, and every one of them was proud of this new remarkable place. A grandfather I chatted to said, “Yep, last time I was here was about three months ago and there was nothing here. When my grandson told me to look at the park from the car, I was like ‘why, there’s nothing there; but then I turned my head and was like, wow! They did a good job here.” A young girl of maybe ten reported to me, “This place had nothin’ here before this. There was a little swing set but nothing else really. Now we got this!,” before running off.
I even saw some teenagers gathering under the gazebo, distanced from the kids but acting as part of the scene, connected to it. In the near distance, I saw a homeless man sitting on a table watching the whole thing. I saw a runner stop and have a stretch in the grass then move past us.
We stayed for over an hour and as the sun began to set, the crowd thinned. I suddenly felt a small panic because I realized that I lost a sight line to my son, but quickly spotted him in the bushes following a group of other children who were moving toward the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower. I heard a father yell to his son, “Hey, it’s almost 7:00 p.m.,” and they both started to walk towards the tower. I took Beatrice to join Arthur and the others who had gathered at the foot of the tower. There was quite a gathering and everyone was looking up as the bells began to chime. All stood silent as the story of the Pied Piper was cast out to the crowd and the tiny doors opened to present the characters carrying little trumpets. The character figures presented themselves to us as the story went on and although I heard those bells chime many times before, somehow this time was different. “Did someone paint those figures, too?,” I thought, as I looked on and listened to the tale of the Pied Piper and the children. The figures seemed as if they were in technicolor and took on a new vibrancy, as if rising to the occasion for their captive audience. In that moment, I looked around and saw all the faces that were looking up in wonder, in contented pride and unity. In that moment, it felt as if everything was right in the world.
When the story had finished and the tower was playing its final tune, Arthur and Beatrice broke into a spontaneous dance of "Ring Around the Rosies". I laughed out loud as the children took my hands into theirs and pulled my arms into motion before falling to the ground at the end of the rhyme.
Construction on the new playground that was the result of countless volunteer hours and financial commitment from the City began last Thursday and went on through the weekend. But before any ground was broken, more than a year’s worth of passionate commitment and dedication from local residents, led by Emily Wolf and her family, was spent on a vision to bring kids in Covington a place where their youth can be celebrated.
Today, I saw the fruits of this labor and it was beautiful. Where there was once a desolate and silent park is now filled with laughter, color and the promise of future. The playground is not only a place where children can enjoy themselves; it is a place of deep community. It’s a place where people can reckon their differences and rediscover their humanity through the universal language of the value of family. Today, I felt like part of a much larger family and that felt so amazing. This is exactly what a City should give us!
Thank you to everyone who helped make this project happen. Thank you to everyone who was involved for giving my family this moment today. Thank you for making a place here where other families can stand together and know they are not alone in raising a family here in the City and finding they are not so different from each other after all. I know that the other families in the playground today feel the same way. I saw it on their faces.
See you at the Playground!
Natalie Bowers is the former marketing & communications director for the City of Covington and is relocating to the Chicago area.