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Tribute to Our Town

IMG_1292 (1)I love living in Cookeville. Love the small town atmosphere. The downtown places for children to play and the chance meetings with friends at the Heart of the City Playground and Dogwood Park. One morning last week I went with Daughter and her children to play, and I ran into three friends and their grandchildren. Friends with whom I enjoyed visiting and I loved seeing their grandchildren. But if weren’t for places for children to play, we wouldn’t have gotten together.

There was no time I appreciated our town more than when Son and family visited recently. What do you do with three young children, ages 1, 3, and 5, after they’ve been strapped in car seats for 2 ½ hours while riding from their other grandparents’ home? Take them to the playground. It was hot that late Sunday afternoon and many families had the same idea. Let kids play somewhere safe and fun and free.

A child swung in almost every swing. The four seats on the seesaw were filled. Children darted from a climbing tripod to the Tennessee Tech tower to the Burgess Falls climbing wall. My eight Grands, including the five who live here and are ages 2-11, roamed from one activity to another and then the two youngest rested in their parents’ laps. The others congregated on the merry-go-round. Around and around they went. Some pushing, some hanging by legs upside down, some sitting, some standing. All laughing and smiling. There was room for them and others. We adults watched and my heart swelled with pride as I remembered that about a year ago many people spent days and days and days from sunrise to past sunset, often in pouring rain, to build Heart of the City Playground.

Two days later, I convinced my Grands’ parents to get everyone ready for a family picture at 9:30 a.m. (That’s a whole long story!) As soon as the photographer put his camera down, my 11-year-old Grand said, “Okay, Gran. Remember you promised a treat after the picture?” So everyone put on play clothes, loaded in two vans, and off we went to eat ice cream. Where do you take eight kids who have licked ice cream cones with their tongues and noses and the ice cream melted and dripped down their arms and two Grands dropped their cones onto their laps? To Dogwood Park Fountain.

“Does this run all the time?” Son asked. Everyday, weather permitting, from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. “It’s free?” Yes. “We didn’t have anything like this when I was a kid.” Three decades ago.

My Grands stood under the giant waterfalls. Some with heads tilted face up, one pretending to wash her hair, one with hands reaching for the sky, another dancing. Or maybe he was swinging his arms and kicking his feet in pure joy and freedom. They all ran zigzag among the many fountains spewing from the concrete ground. They stood over fountains to shower from feet to head and they tried to stop the water flow with their hands and they karate-chopped forceful streams. Three Grands held hands to form a circle and skipped around a spewing fountain.

The toddlers wore out quickly and nestled with their mothers and me on park benches. The older Grands chased each other along the sidewalks and through the grass. I wondered if those who planned Dogwood Park knew how much fun children could have on a muggy August morning.

Cookeville. I’m ever so thankful to live here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Band Concert in the Park

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I carried Ruth’s and my folding chairs across Dogwood Park to a flat grassy area in front of the performance pavilion.To keep my Grand interested, we needed to sit close to the action at the Community Band Concert.  I greeted my friends, Mary Dell and Robert, who were seated at a picnic table just a few feet behind our chairs.  I introduced Ruth to them and to their dog Button, a hospital therapy dog.  Button is an Australian Silken Terrier, is less than a foot tall and weighs only a few pounds.  She stood on the picnic table.  Ruth tentatively raised her hand to touch Button, and Mary Dell explained that Button likes to have her chest scratched.

Button sniffed Ruth’s hand and turned away.   My Grand and I settled into our chairs while the band members warmed up their instruments.  A cacophony of sound – Ruth put her hands over her ears and looked back at Button.  Mary Dell’s smile encouraged her to stand by Button.  With one finger, Ruth scratched Button’s chest and gently rubbed her back.

The concert began.  The band played  “The Star Spangled Banner” and Ruth and I stood, as did all the 250 people in the audience.  Then my Grand crawled into my lap and I tapped my toes to the rhythm of  “Good Ole Summertime.”

“Watch those trombones.  See how the musicians playing them made them long and then short?  That’s how a trombone makes different notes, like on our piano,” I told Ruth.  We teachers think we have to make every outing a learning experience.  Ruth quickly ate the cheese and cracker snack I’d brought, and she looked back over my shoulder at Button.

Mary Dell nodded her head and motioned with her fingers that it was okay for Ruth to see Button again.  Robert put a dog treat in Ruth’s hand and showed her how to hold her hand flat.  She laughed when Button’s tongue licked her hand and then her face.  Ruth went from that first tentative touch and scratching Button’s chest to giving her treats and laughing when Button licked her.

The music played on.  So much inspiring, upbeat, summertime music performed by the sixty musicians on stage.  Robert Jager masterfully directed each song.  I tapped my foot, applauded, and enjoyed and appreciated every note.  Especially the percussion instruments when the circus came to town.  And I sat alone.  My Grand sat on the picnic table bench between Mary Dell and Robert, and Button stood right in front of her.

The hour-long concert ended.  Ruth told her new friends good-bye, held my hand, and we walked toward our car.  “That music was weird,” Ruth said.

“Weird?” I said.  “It’s different from what we usually listen to.  Maybe not weird, but different.  I like band music.”

“Me, too.”

“So do you want to come to another concert?”

“When?  Will Button be there?”  Ruth asked.  Monday night, June 23, 7:30 p.m.  I don’t know if Button will be there.  The free concert will take us Around the World on a Musical Tour.  I’m sure we’ll have fun – enjoy music that’s not what we hear every day and greet old and new friends.  All outside, under the stars, in the park.

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