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  • Last modified 24 days ago (Nov. 23, 2017)

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What not to be thankful for

Turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie are but appetizers. What we mainly feast on each Thanksgiving is tradition.

For nearly 40 years, since before my son could clearly say his name, my family has spent every Thanksgiving week in Marion, dining at my mother’s, hauling truckloads of leaves from her yard, and frolicking in Central Park.

One of our family’s most honored rites of passage occurs there around age 3. First son Nate, then later grandson Henry and granddaughters Maggie and Josie were photographed dashing through the exact same clearing, with Marion’s venerable water tower looming behind.

The rest of the year, my son and his family live east of San Francisco, in one of three contiguous communities ranked among the top 10 places in which to raise children.

They’re accustomed to beautiful, well-equipped, and well-maintained parks. They always have held Marion’s park in the same esteem.

Until this year.

Walking through the park Monday, they noted:

  • Trees had vanished and not been replaced.
  • One of two spring-mounted riding toys near Main St. had snapped off its base.
  • Chains on various swings, were twisted, looped, and maladjusted.
  • Restrooms, designed to be left open year-round, were locked.
  • A section of a small merry-go-round in back was dragging on the ground.
  • A hanging bar that supports seats of a larger merry-go-round had snapped loose, causing a section to sag.

“It looks like the park has had vandalism,” my seventh-grade grandson remarked.

“It just doesn’t look very well maintained,” his mother chimed in. “Particularly in the back, it seems downright unsafe.”

Perhaps it was just a one-day anomaly — fresh damage by uncaring miscreants whose attack on cherished community treasures would quickly be corrected.

But it hurt nonetheless. The big merry-go-round in particular has entertained at least four generations of my family — from my grandchildren and son through me to my 92-year-old mother.

All of us recall the same pleasures it elicited — and the hard use it absorbed — for nearly a century before someone obviously bent on its destruction tried to eradicate its legacy of enduring memories.

We hope the damage and lack of repair aren’t signs that the town’s expansive new parks and recreation bureaucracy has grown so big that it has lost focus. Maybe by week’s end, the park will be back to normal. But as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Kindergartner Josie doesn’t care much whether bridge lights tackily change colors each season or whether a giant wall that rarely sees actual use as a stage cuts across the park. But at that age, it takes very little to cause a child to suddenly fall out of love with a park that suddenly stops living up to its tradition.

Thanksgiving needs to be about more than turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Nov. 23, 2017

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