Play Place

To help mitigate the oppressive heat, we opted for the Lakeview Camping Area of Cedar Hill State Park. The road that intersects the G loop has a number of campsites that are situated beneath tall trees, offering a shady respite from the summer sun. We were unaware that it was also the only camping loop to feature a playground. That is, until we went for a walk and spied a strange-looking contraption in the woods. At first glance, we thought it was some kind of propane gas facility, a configuration of large white pipes standing stark and sad. Upon closer inspection, however, we discovered ropes and slides, ladders and decks, as well as a number of small paths leading to various campsites.

One morning, as Jon was out with the dogs for a walk, a couple of kids rode by on bicycles and asked him where the playground was located. He gave them directions that took them all the way around the loop, not realizing that there were a number of closer access points. Neither of us had a clue that the playground was actually situated only about 20 yards from where we were camped–until we were cooking out at the grill and kept hearing the squeals of kids on the playground in the distance. That’s when we peered through the trees and discovered our proximity to the white-pipe monstrosity that had come to life with children at play.

It seemed like an apt metaphor for our lives, for we have always found ourselves at the playground’s edge, never at its center. As children, we weren’t popular or athletic. Inevitably, we were the “last choice” for whoever was picking players. And for a lot of gay kids of our generation, the playground was more of a proving ground–a place for developing an alligator hide to protect us from bullying and shaming and self-loathing.

Now, at middle age, we find ourselves longing for simpler times, when a mother’s kind attention could heal a scraped knee or an older brother could intervene with a bully. We got into a particularly bruising argument on Friday afternoon, but by evening we had managed to call a truce and enjoy Date Night, albeit with a greater appreciation for our vulnerability.

On Saturday, we ventured into Dallas to get our hair cut and pick up some specialty items at Eataly. Despite returning with a bag full of Italian delights, Chef Cliff grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for supper. On Sunday, we dismantled and reassembled our Blackstone griddle after clearing the burner tubes of spider webs (lesson learned: don’t leave it outside overnight), and managed to enjoy a late brunch scramble before taking an afternoon nap. For supper, we opted for a light wedge salad, followed by a walk in the spectacular light of the Blue Moon.

Throughout the weekend, we continued bingeing on “Virgin River,” a Netflix series that follows Melinda “Mel” Monroe, who answers an ad to work as a midwife and nurse practitioner in the remote Northern California town of Virgin River, thinking it will be the perfect place to start fresh and leave her painful memories behind. The romantic drama stars Tim Matheson as Vernon “Doc” Mullins, the town doctor, and Annette O’Toole as Hope McCrae, the town mayor. Spoiler alert: small-town living isn’t quite as simple as Mel had expected.

Life is complicated. More of a proving ground than a playground. We’re grateful to have developed enough resilience to sustain us during the difficult times.