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Kid’s Kingdom

Amanda Gray | Friday, October 1, 2010

When I was a little girl, I used to pester my mother to take me to Kid’s Kingdom.

Located not far from this very campus, Kid’s Kingdom is the playground of all playgrounds. In fact, most who grew up locally in the 1980s and 90s will swear it’s a rite of passage. Not in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana, I hear you say. Impossible.

Well, Kid’s Kingdom is a castle. It has turrets and hidden rooms, an amphitheatre and tire swings. If memory serves me right, there are four separate slides and every type of playground equipment possible. There’s even a bull made from recycled tires that you can ride. Seriously, this place rocks.

Anyway, some of my best childhood memories involve this playground Mecca, running until I was tired out and inevitably falling asleep in the car on the way home. I was obsessed when I was little. I’d go there all the time in the spring and summer. I’d even ask to go in the fall, trying to soak up enough joy to last me through the winter.

I’m not sure why exactly, but I went without thinking about Kid’s Kingdom for about 10 years. School became harder, puberty hit, boys lost their cooties but gained licenses. It wasn’t until high school that memory drifted back to those days of innocence and fun.

My group of best girlfriends and I were talking one day — during a slumber party, of course, after talking about boys but before painting our toes — about what we missed most about being kids. Someone brought up Kid’s Kingdom, although memory fails me now who.

We all paused, recalling the wide-eyed wonder each of us experienced during blue, cloudless summer days.

We made a vow, then. We’d go there for Maria’s birthday, which was coming up, if only just for a few minutes, to see if it still held the fantasy we all could instantly recall. We’d bring a camera, just for kicks.

That was August of 2007 — Maria’s 18th birthday. I had to go check Facebook to see if it has really been 4 years.

We had the time of our lives — which sounds really dorky now. We ran around. We got sweaty and dirty. We took goofy photographs and laughed until it hurt.

We reclaimed our childhood, in a way.

We go back every summer now, always for Maria’s birthday. We normally go to dinner first and maybe catch a movie. We like to get there just before sunset because it’s cooled off a bit but we can still get some good photographs. We call it our “yearly photo shoot,” but I’m pretty sure that’s just an excuse to head over there.

As we grow older, we feel the need to reconnect with the past and to reconnect with each other. We’re all at different schools, except for Maria and me. With classes and other activities, we rarely get to see each other all together. Kid’s Kingdom is a way to hold onto the memories despite the distance and the growing responsibilities.

We may have to grow up eventually, but not quite yet.