I should really learn my lesson. But, alas, the family and I went on “free museum day” to the local aerospace museum and braved the crowds. We waited in long lines to board plane after plane, including a tiny jet for the preschool set that disturbingly said “Airforce Prerecruiting” and was located a little too near the actual recruitment stand.

Then we saw the GIANT PARK right next to the museum building and yard. A sigh of relief washed over me.  “Thank God!” I thought. I will just let my poor son, suffering from cabin fever since the onset of the rains several days ago, run wild and free despite the inevitable wet butt that will result. He had on his raincoat and rain boots. I had brought a change of clothes. We were ready.

What I was not prepared for was the construction fencing enclosing the entire park, which, ostensibly, was not under any sort of construction at all. The playground, in fact, looked absolutely perfect.

My son and his two friends gazed longingly through the chain-link fence.

“Why can’t we go in?” they whined wistfully.

One noticed a hole in the fencing and suggested that that was the way in. It could have been, but as responsible parents we didn’t want to encourage delinquency, so we denied them entrance.

It did seem unfair. Other children gathered by the fence, also looking disconsolate. Part of me wanted to rip that hole wide open and shout, “C’mon through!” I would have been greeted as a liberator.

“Hey, I remember a sign for another park,” my friend helpfully suggested. I, too, had remembered seeing such a sign somewhere along the unending stretch of strip malls leading to the museum. We decided to get in our cars and seek out some sorely needed outdoor time.

We followed each other, and there, sure enough, was the sign: McClellan Park. But as we turned right, we were again discouraged. There was not a spot of green to be found. We realized quickly that what was meant by “park” was really “research park.” For the military, to be precise. What a semantic misunderstanding.

Dejected, we decided to drive the long distance back home and get some lunch as we were also hungry and not at all tempted by the fast food joints that were our only nearby options.  I heard my son mutter “stupid park” under his breath as we drove away.

He is fed and is napping now. The sun has finally come out. We will go on a long, long walk when he wakes up. We both need to move our bodies and breathe in the fresh air, made new again by the recent rains. We need to jump in puddles and hear the geese honking overhead. For these simple comforts, every day is a free day. It truly is the best deal around.

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