You know, Central Park is pretty great. We seem to find ourselves there only a few times a year, but I’m always reminded by how great it is whenever we go. It’s like every every few steps you see something new: a live band, a performer, a wedding party, baseball games, one of the many playgrounds, a zoo.
Mark used to work in the park for five years and still went in once a week for the past 3 years until that consulting job ended. You can see the restaurant where he was the Pastry Chef at the end of the lake with the rowboats. Central Park used to be his park. He would walk through the park to get to the restaurant 5 mornings a week all year round, often before the sun would rise and when only the joggers, dog walkers and bird watchers were out. He’d get to see the park before most people after a fresh overnight snowfall, the snow still pristine yet to be tracked by footsteps. The best days, however, may have been in the Fall, witnessing the park transform a little bit everyday until it all the trees were ablaze with color. I don’t think he misses that job necessarily, but I do know that he misses being in the park.
My earliest memory of Central Park was when I was a kid around 7 years old. My mom took me to the park for an assignment in school, but it had snowed heavily that evening into the morning. We decided to go anyway and I remember trekking in the snow that was sometimes knee deep. I distinctly remember the subway ride and coming out from the underground to see the city blanketed in snow. The park was beautiful. Coincidentally, one of my fondest memory of the park is the baby shower that we had at the restaurant when I was pregnant with Mia. Again, there was a storm the night before and we woke up to about 6 inches of snow. We had worried that it might discourage our guests from coming and I had to waddle very carefully through icy sidewalks and navigate curbside snow piles myself. The walk from the subway to the restaurant is about a mile and I was 8 months pregnant, but the trek was well worth it. The snow was pristine and glistening heavily on the branches and the lake was frozen over. It made for a very memorable back drop to our baby shower.
But above all, I remember the park for being the place that we used to hang out all the time during college. It wasn’t close to my art school which was all the way downtown in the East Village, but the express 4 train got you there in half an hour. Our spot was the Sheep Meadow. I feel like we were there at least once a week, sometimes more. There was even one night in the early Fall, September of 1989 I think, when my friends and I gathered right before midnight just in case the prediction of the world ending that day was true. We had been reading a lot about conspiracy theories and end of the world predictions and we thought, well hey, if by any chance the world was going to end, we’d rather spend it in the middle of a large grassy lawn in Central Park than hiding inside. We brought blankets and laid on the grass staring at the few stars we can see in the city. When nothing happened by 2am, we went home.
It had been a long time since I’d been to Sheep Meadow and quite possibly not since those college days, but we went with the girls this weekend. I spotted the tree where my friends and I would always meet and I laughed when I remembered how we gathered in the middle of the field just in case the end of the year predictions were true. Crazy kids. As I watched the girls playing frisbee, I thought to myself that I should probably tell them that story one of these days.