And then there was that time I took my three little girls to the most magical park in Thornton, CO: the Margaret Carpenter Park and Open Space. This place is a kids’ (and parents’ fantasy): a gorgeous playground; a large lake; vintage carousel; ducks; huge stage and amphitheatre for impromptu productions; splash pad and lovely boathouse with paddle boat rental.

We arrived on this day at 9 a.m. sharp to find a mostly deserted playground and my dear friend toting her three children. Within seconds, the six kids were dancing, screaming and falling down (seriously, can they not walk?).

And then someone spotted a surprise perched on top of one of the play structures: a green Army man toy, about five inches tall. The toy was placed way up high deliberately and playfully. The frozen plastic toy all but sang: Come and get me.

A picture of a plastic Army man figurine by Jennifer Manske Fenske

How could they not run and jump and climb? They did so, and the Army man was theirs. A quick look revealed another toy-man, this time on top of a taller play structure. The most dare devilish kid was dispatched for that one. Finally, a third Army man beckoned from the swooping, curvy climb-or-perish playground thingie. But alas, even our most fearless child could not summit this one. So, shoes were thrown; flipflops soared through the air. Nothing worked to get it down.

(A parent who shall remain nameless eventually climbed to the top of the playground thingie, secretly thrilled to have a legitimate reason to do so. It was then the parent realized that each Army man was secured to its post with a small dot of some sort of adhesive. Clever!)

A toddler holding a plastic toy army man

Finally, three Army men. But there were four children (excluding the oblivious babies). The group ran off to the stage and amphitheatre to search there. Triumph! They were rewarded with the last Army man who was tucked out of sight. Joy reigned supreme.

Thank you, thank you to whomever it was that plotted this Random Act of Awesomeness, as my friend called it. You brought us laughter. And delight. And surprise.

An army figurine photo by Jennifer Fenske

I have been pushing myself all summer (me, of the dread-of-summer-end-of-school-year-routine) to be present. To love the heat. To put down the phone and just get to the park.

It’s not easy. I love my structure. But when I look into their flushed faces that scream for more cherries! more peanut butter! I kind of give in. I become someone who is looking for whimsy and delight instead of counting what I don’t have.

Let me tell you this: I have plenty of disappointments. I have some dreams that are looking ridiculous. I get itchy for change. But His mercies? They are new every morning. Every single gorgeous morning. I’m looking for them. Oh, how I am looking.

A girl sleeping with a plastic green army figurine


2 thoughts on “Park Magic

  1. Jennifer, i so love your words…. Your stories touch my heart, and make me see God in ways i otherwise wouldn’t. May God bless you and continue to keep you sharing the gifts He’s given you with us all.

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