Houston, TX 77083
January 2004–The majority of educated people in the world presently agree that your childhood shapes who you are and who you will be. ‘Growing up’ is a delicate string of years which puts the rest of your life together for you. It’s a time in your life that is spent determining your future: your personality, your attitude, your behavior, your outlooks, and basically your life as a whole. Many parents in today’s society are intent on giving their own child or children a healthy head start on life by introducing them to school at earlier and earlier ages, and it just goes to show how misread and misunderstood one’s youth can be. Education will most often always be available and will follow us throughout the rest of our lives; however, it is those unsupervised hours on that playground, where we learn about our real identities.
I’ve lived next to Mission Bend Elementarybasically all my life. Located in Fort Bend ISD, it is conveniently down the street from my house; no more than a five minute stroll through the neighborhood, it has always been a large part of my life. But only now has it been revealed to me that it’s a larger part of my life than I had realized.
Everybody I knew used the dread the days in which middle school, the great transition from 5th to 6th grade, loomed in the near future. To us happy-go-lucky kids, it meant real work, real classes, real life, which sounded like a real bore. Even worse, it meant no more recess; no more days to play tag under the sun, no more hide and go seek, no more timeouts on the sidewalk where you had to watch other kids enjoying themselves instead of you. You could go around and ask every kid in the school, and they would all agree: recess would definitely be missed.
I especially remember a little group of seven friends and myself. They were my best friends, my partners, my brothers. Our everyday lives revolved around what went on during those forty-five minutes of playtime each and everyday, and when we realized that we would soon be stripped of this intangible privilege, we were completely devastated. Going off to Hodges Bend Middle School would be horrible, we thought. One afternoon towards the end of the school year, we were sitting around the jungle gym just talking about what we each thought middle school would be like. No matter what the differences in our stories were, they all eventually reached the same conclusion: we knew we would all pretty much drift apart from each other. Our little group wouldn’t really have that much time for each other because we would be having eight classes a day, and all our older brothers who had gone through generally the same process gave us their authentic affirmation that it was true: you’ve got to learn how to make new friends because you can’t count on seeing your old ones all the time anymore like you used to. And as the inevitable approached, my friends and I feared it simply because we knew what recess did for us, and how our amity among each other was a direct result from it. Our break time after lunch was our time for each other. It was our time to forget our troubles in life, no matter what they might have been, and just enjoy ourselves in each other’s presence. My parents were actually in the midst of a nasty divorce during the mid-section of my 5th grade year, and it was tough for me, considering how little I knew about what was actually going on. All I realized was that it was a horrible thing and a miserable time for me when I was at home, but the time I spent playing with my friends helped me through it all. All I would care about was hiding under the slides or running from them; I didn’t need to run from my life’s problems anymore. When I look back on those days my friends and I shared of playing basketball out in the rain, or kicking the dirt around looking for bugs, I realize those times did much more for me than pass the time and produce fun. Those unforgettable childhood memories made me who I am today. Thanks to them and the people they involve, I am now a person who places great value on friendships.
The playground is where every kid, including myself, is made. It’s where the changes towards adulthood begin. People nowadays just pass by a park or a school and see the swings and the slides, and they just miss the meaning of what it holds. It’s where boys and girls alike can be crazy and carefree in front of each other while not only learning about each other, but learning about themselves. From that first fist fight in the dirt when you came home with a bloody nose and a black eye to that first smile you got from the girl you thought had ‘cooties’, each experience adds on to the memory banks in the deep recesses of your mind and stays there for the rest of your life.
I didn’t know what it was about her that made me feel different inside. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know today; all I know is that there was definitely something that just made her stand out in my eyes. This girl, Christine Nguyen was her name, put me through some things that I’ll never forget. I’m not saying it was a full-fledged romance, because it wasn’t. We were just elementary school students, and well, I simply didn’t understand that part of life yet. She was more of a close companion to me with whom I began to spend more and more of my time on the playground with. One day we went our separate ways, however, and I noticed that some guy was being a bully to her, teasing and calling her names, and at one point even pushing her around and throwing pebbles at her. I don’t know what got into me at that point in time, but I couldn’t control myself; so, I ran up to him and took him to the ground in her defense. I admit now that it undoubtedly wasn’t the smartest thing to do at the moment, but the harder I think about it, the more I realize I don’t regret it one bit. Getting myself into that first fight was something I needed to go through as a kid, and it was an event that matured me in a major way. I’m sure many other children go through something of the same effect, although it doesn’t go to the extreme that mine did. None-the-less, it is that point in time when you learn something you can’t be taught in any other situation. It was then on that playground when you learned to stand up for yourself, your friends, for what you know is right, or even to fight for what you believe in. From this, my dad taught me an important moral in life that helps when you’re thinking about what you should do in any given situation: every action has a consequence. For that particular day’s recess, I accepted the consequences for my actions, but it was worth it. Ethics was a priceless reward for the risk I took to get it.
I recall Kyle as a quiet student who kept to himself. He was unfortunately the victim and subject of many bullies throughout the school and even myself at some point. He was that lonesome kid whom no other person spent any time with, and I somehow felt superior to him. However, the time soon came when I found myself on the receiving end of the painful remarks and persecution. I don’t know if humiliation is something every youngster has to go through, but it was something that taught me about humbling myself and respecting others. I found Kyle one day sitting in a corner of the playground crying to himself, and I thought to myself, ‘Why is he being such a baby?’ After I finally found out the kind of maltreatment he had to live with practically everyday of his life, I discovered why. From that day on I took the emotions and feelings of others I met until now into consideration, and I learned to give respect to everyone: friends, family, and even strangers. I even invited some kids to play with us the next day….
Kickball was an afternoon tradition for me and the crew. As soon as our teacher Mrs. MacDonald blew that whistle, we took off for the dusty baseball diamond on the far side batting cage. It was set on the outskirts of the school grounds so that whenever we played there generally everyday, we were always able to see the rest of the kids on every other section of the playground. During our miniature seventh-inning stretch, or even any day when we didn’t feel like playing, the guys and I would just sit there sometimes and relax on the grass. From so far out, all you could hear was what seemed like harmless yells and shouts of joy from all the other students, and weather permitting, we always saw the same thing: children with smiles on their faces running around ceaselessly and yelling at the tops of their lungs. Just watching them, I’d get a sense of happiness and content. I’d look out there and just smile, forgetting everything that might have been on my mind, and it hit me one day while looking out around the playground, that this is the epitome of being a youth; being carefree, happy, and having fun.
From that moment on, I began to take in every memory of my childhood days out on that playground. Out there on that 4-acre stretch of land, I was created. I finally got the chance to recognize who I was at that point in time and what I was doing there. The young adult I am today is nothing but that little elementary schoolboy in a bigger body. All those past experiences from the days of the playground flashback to me each and everyday of my life, helping me get through problems as I really am. When I take a look upon my life and wonder what it’s become, or I wonder what I’ve become, I can easily understand how it became to be that way. From my childhood past I have grown into who I am today: socially, mentally, physically, and much more importantly, a mature young adult. Life on the playground is much more than playing; in reality, it teaches us about ourselves and who we are, and who we are to become.
Fort Bend County
Mission Bend Elementary School
Hodges Bend Middle School