Ode to Stephen's Field: Closed for Quarantine; Open for Reflection
Last night. 8:45 pm and the sun had set but, extending its hand toward Solstice's longest day, there was enough light to answer the call. As if pulled by the tide, we climbed out of the shell of a freshly framed house, turning tentacles toward the lapping edge, and scurried sideways down a velvety grass field to the mucky, crab-infested archeological shores of Stephen's Field.
Stephen's Field, oh dump-bred beauty. Ancient glass shards, palm-sized blue china polygons, thick brown pottery hunks, red and yellow bricks, and the subway-tiled floor of someone's sledge-hammered bathroom: these relics of Plymouth's past still raise their fists from the mud to remind us that no matter how good barefoot feels, shoes are advised. In the seventies, my brother plucked Indian pipes up out of the hungry grey clay, pushed a massive town-owned lawnmower 1/4 mile with his three cousins to dump it here. Last night in its sandal-sucking muck Lisa revisited the 70s too—when sitcoms and films fed us lifetime nightmares that we, like Gilligan, Don Knotts, and Gidget, might get sucked into quicksand and disappear forever.
Let me disappear forever into the reeds behind the duck pond. I got catapulted off the seesaw by Bobby, I've won the contest on who can hang upside down the longest on the uneven bars, and I'm exhausted from hours on the merry-go-round. Spend hours looking for tiny eels with me in the rust-orange mucky stream, or sit awhile on the picnic benches to cover a bottle with bits of masking tape. Then let's shoe-polish it in cordovan and pretend it's leather, then proudly display it with our pipe cleaner-and-tissue paper flower. Play tennis on the courts, geriatric and limping but still seaside, as good as any Caribbean resort. Sure, our 12-foot chainlink is bent in from the storms of last winter and the winter before that, but who cares if they fix it: find more tennis balls on the beach. Stephen's Field is where the beach is real, a last vestige of access for regular people before our seaside gets stockpiled by The Chosen Few.
There are no 4th of July fireworks like the ones set off at Stephen's Field, when the firemen lit fuses behind the basketball court and you watched from behind home plate while ashes rained down on your head. No fireworks will be launched from the harbor this year, but do launch your boat at low tide and cruise your Starcraft to the point. Fine: kayak. Learned to swim in those same murky waters, those years that the sewage processing plant was dumping waste not miles out to sea but right into the harbor. Toilet paper floated by. We survived.
Walk down with your teenage sister, 1976; her friends may have drank and smoked on the picnic benches. Their kids or grandkids are there to replace them. Bikers picnicked; so did many an immigrant community, burning their meats with charcoal on the public grills that once stood there. Take a photo of a kid on a swing. Have another kid; take more. Begin a music video. Open and close a farmer's market. Start a friendship; find a business partner. Walk there after school with a Nathaniel Morton first-grade buddy, parents talk while kids play; eight years later, do it again, still friends. Pluck crabs from the shallows together after dark.
Closed for quarantine. Open for reflection. Look forward. It'll be fine.