On any nice day after school my mother took my sister and me out to the park…sometimes against our will. We rode bikes, went sledding and ice skating. When the cherry blossoms were in bloom we had picnics under them—always date nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches with grape juice and gingerale (I have no recollection where that menu came from, but we loved it). There were actually two parks we frequented—Riverside Park, which was right next to us, and Central Park.
These parks stretched for miles and had so many wonderful things to offer—innovative playgrounds, skating rinks, a wonderful old carousel, a zoo, the boat pond where adults sailed huge model ships, the stage where the New York Philharmonic practiced in the summer, the boat basin where people lived on houseboats (a fascination for us). I gained a different perspective on the parks when sometime in junior high or high school I wrote a report on Fredrick Law Olmstead, the landscape designer for Central Park and Riverside Park (he made a plan for Riverside Park, which other designers incorporated). Learning about Fredrick Law Olmstead, and his vision for great and beautiful public green spaces, made me take a closer look at the two parks I was lucky enough to call my own.
The parks are more than 100 years old, and have weathered storm damage and the use by millions of people. They are more lovely now than ever. Patches have been turned over to community gardens, with members tending their small plots; profusions of flowers and shrubs spill through the iron fencing protecting them. The Parks Department has planted copious daffodil bulbs and spring flowering shrubs, and maintained or replanted cherry and apple blossoms, along with a variety of hardwood trees.
On the #5 bus yesterday, just before dark, I was treated to a display of color. Red cherry blossom buds gave trees the look of fireworks just before they explode, while other trees had already burst into balls of white. We passed magnolias heavy with white flowers, bright yellow forsythia, red quince (many of the flowering shrubs we’ve planted at home I first admired in the park), and of course, fields of daffodils.
I watched the undulating colors and felt a familiar surge of love for this city and it’s seemingly infinite variety.