Despite the sleep deprivation, I can hardly wait for the mornings to come: the birds, the clear light, the glow, the green, the birds, the baby talking — ba ba, na na, ma ma, mum ma, DA?!? [screams and points]. "Buuuuur-DEE?" Ba ba na. "Dawg?" She's the original uptalker. It's the sweetest music, all of it. The dogs race for balls in the dog park near our house. High above the baseball diamond the trees burst forth in sprays of green, each one a different shade. It's ridiculously picturesque. Trees like an oil painting of trees. There's a tree-lined path straight through the middle of the park, like a colonnade. We saunter it each morning, listening to the birds, talking to the sun and flowers. Slow, slow. Stay like this, just here. Growing up, I lived one house away from a huge park. A school-yard. My school. Gravel fields. A backstop. A giant swing set — they probably don't even make them that tall anymore. One time I jumped off and wiped out and screamed so loudly my dad heard me in our house. Towering oak trees. Sand pits. The tall chain-link fence surrounding the whole lot, way off in the distance. The railroad embankment covered in ivy and phlox. The scruffy baseball diamond, the single splintered bench per side. The giant brick wall (the side of the school gym) against which my sister and I hit a million tennis balls (I was good, she was great). The cracked and peeling hopscotch board. The four-square boxes. The rusty basketball hoop on its tilted pole. The crabapple tree where my neighbor Hali and I spent an entire afternoon singing "Rhinestone Cowboy." The bridal veil bushes. The outfield toward which I boinged sharp little rocks with my new tennis racket — they flew like rubberbands — until a string broke, which shocked and worried me so badly — I'd just gotten the racket that day, after a long wait — I wanted to run away from home. The park was always so incredibly empty, except for us. No one besides us neighborhood kids ever played there when school was out. No parents ever went there. Mine could sometimes see us from our house, if they looked, but no adults ever "went to the park" with any of us, and we wouldn't have wanted that. We went outside after dinner and we came home when the streetlights came on. Every single night. Lightning bugs and hosta flowers. The smell of the mosquito spray belched out by giant trucks that came to fog the neighborhood in the worst mostquito years (good lord). Humidity so thick you were always damp. Lawns green and thick and long. If we were going to go in someone's house, one of us ran home to tell our parents, and then we still kept an eye on the streetlights, and left when they came on. Oh, the wild suburban spaces we roamed. The overgrown backyards and train embankments and far, shady corners of forgotten spaces behind the Prescotts' potting shed. Things were so different then. The park in River Forest is a fancy park now. I sat in it and cried a little the last time I was home. I was crying about lots of things, but a little bit for the park. The school is gone and the fence is gone and the gravel and buckling asphalt are gone and it's a lovely, green, well-manicured, shady, beautiful, fancy playground with perfect grass and cedar chips and swirly slides and safety swings. It belongs to people from all the surrounding streets, not just ours. An obvious improvement, of course. But. I wonder if the kids on our old block still play alone in it every night the way we did. I wonder where my dearest little sweetest wild violet will run wild.