I stepped off the bus on Commerce Street at Noon sharp. My hands shook with anticipation as I walked toward that familiar corner, the one I knew so well from many blissful Fridays throughout 2008.
I rushed across the street, drawing closer to what looked to me like a magical portal to another world. I walked quickly past bored strangers waiting for their buses. I saw the grass. I heard the fountain. Even the foul scent of a cigarette smoked by a man standing just around the corner, next to the fountain, couldn’t ruin this moment.
I was back in Frost Park. I was back, and so was my weekly respite from the world: the Frost Park Chalk-Offs.
As I passed the plume of smoke lazily drifting away from the man with the cigarette and crested the hill, I caught my breath. There they were: the regulars, the familiar faces I’d longed to see. Some were already hard at work, kneeling over half-formed masterpieces on the sidewalk.
I was home.
Sometimes, when you step back into a treasured memory, it doesn’t feel right. From the moment I set foot in the park, it felt even better than I remembered. How could I have let such a treasure fade, in my mind? I drank in the feeling of camaraderie, the smell of chalk and dirt and miscellaneous scents wafting from miscellaneous lunches.
It was a magical experience – one of those rare occasions when time slows down in spite of the fun being had. I was shocked when I heard people shouting that we had half an hour left to draw. By that point, I was sure there couldn’t be more than ten minutes left.
I still can’t believe how quickly it all came back to me. Nothing felt strange or forced about slipping back into the comfy old jacket that is Frost Park. There was nothing strange about seeing these people that, by and large, I hadn’t seen in months. There was no awkward glancing about, wondering what to do. Even the tricks of chalking were not forgotten: though my brain was convinced that I was out of practice and would be starting my chalk skills from scratch again, my hands were not so easily fooled. They chuckled softly to themselves as they set about their task with the ease and familiarity of an old craftsman setting about his daily routine.
The mood was vibrant: the gap between Commerce Street and Pacific Avenue was filled with jovial chatter, laughter, the snaps of camera shutters and the smell and taste of delicious chocolate chip cookies. The park was alive in a way it hadn’t been since we left it last Halloween.
Children ran this way and that, feeding off the incredible energy washing through us all. Passersby paused and watched. Some were already familiar with the phenomenon. Several told me how glad they were to see we were back. One man personally thanked us for what we were doing. He said Tacoma needed more things like it.
Stories were shared. Birthdays were celebrated. Frost Park thrived again.
And that, hard as it may be to believe, was only the beginning.
I can’t wait until next week.
If you would like to see all of the chalk art from this week, you may view them in the voting thread. This is the same thread that I reference in today’s video.