“What kind of airplane is that?”

I read the plaque. “F 104 Starfighter.”

It is suspended in front of the Burbank rec center by a sort of skewer that holds it at a dramatic angle.

“Is it real?”

“Sure, it is.”

We approach the playground behind it, a canopied area featuring a climbing wall and web.

“You might recognize more people this time,” I say.

You go to the neighborhood school. Before, when we came there, you went to a pre-school far from where live. You didn’t know anyone at the park.

You do now.

Familiar faces appear around every corner. I recognize the parents, talk to one of the dads. He notices you clinging to me, gets his son to draw you out.

“Come on, we’re playing Spiderman.”

You don’t play with him but you do with a little girl. She holds a bouquet of oak leaves in her hand. Climbing the apparatus, she lets them go and they flutter down to the sand.

Then something magical happens: in the golden light appears your teacher with her daughter. You stare at her, stunned.  This is not where my teacher belongs.

You come up to me: “My whole school is here!”

Four of them, like you, have IEPs. Some run around with the other kids.  Some play by themselves.

I am thinking how lucky I am.

Later, I learn about the F 104 Starfighter. A supersonic interceptor. Unsafe. Involved in the the “Deal of the Century” a seventies scandal involving pay-offs of foreign leaders. Kind of what we have going on now with our schools. Corporate greed.  I hope they don’t take away our local school, where everyone is welcome, where kids can find friends to play with at the park.

But there is no moral to this story, I keep telling myself. It was just a visit to the park, a time I got to watch you having some fun.

Photo by dianaholga

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