Tot Town

Come on over to a spot in Rodgers Forge that really swings -- and slides and seesaws.

May 06, 2001|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff

You are 2. You are 18 months. You have just come into the world.

You have newly discovered the power to walk on your own. Or maybe you just watch, enviously, as the others take their tentative steps. Your world is small and familiar and comforting. It includes Mom and Dad, your room and the Rodgers Forge Tot Lot.

You don't live especially near it. Neither do a lot of your friends here. But your moms and dads and nannies and aunts and grandmas bundle you into the car anyway, driving all the way from Carney and Bel Air and downtown Baltimore, because this tucked-away playground is a mecca for toddlers.

The adults describe it with words like "godsend," a safe place for falls and poking fingers and a million outdoor milestones. It's not much more than a big median strip, 1.4 acres between Dunkirk and Blenheim roads, a spot so inconspicuous that seekers often need a map drawn by a parent in the know to find it. It's been here for more than 40 years, surrounded by brick townhouses and apartments inhabited by lots of young families.

Along with sharing walls comes sharing this space, a communal experience for your parents, who have much to discuss while you waver at the top of the twisty slide. Baby Trend strollers vs. Graco. Where to get you some music lessons at 6 months old. Why you won't sleep at night. Where in the world the rest of their lives have gone, now that you are here.

The Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks takes care of this place, but so do the people who come here. They bring toys and leave them, so the grass is strewn with big yellow dump trucks and wagons and Winnie the Pooh buggies that belong to all. Anybody can ride, and everybody does.

In a single afternoon, you do so much: Put your hand on another kid's head to see who is taller. Take every last stick out of your sand pail. Fall in the wood chips and cry for 10 lusty seconds. Take the steps to the top of the slide two at a time, for the first time. Chicken out at the top, backing up the line.

You can't really put into words why you love this place. One must listen for your spontaneous testimony.

On the bouncy seat shaped like a red ram: "This is the greatest ever."

Driving a dump truck up the hill that's so fun to cruise down: "Mom, I need some help."

Caught in plastic-car gridlock with the wide-eyed girl who looks like a young Juliette Binoche: "Beep beep."

And on the swings -- the good ones that hold you in tight so you can lean all the way back and throw both your arms to the sky -- you just say:

"Yaaaay. Yaaaay. Yaaaay."

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