Just A Walk In The Park

I think it was called a pram. You know one of those large baby carriages of yesteryear. It had sort of a lid that you pulled up or down to shield the infant from the elements. I have rare memories of my father pushing a pram – we called it the baby buggy – around the park across from Woodsdale School.

And it was always on Sunday. That was pretty much the day we saw our father the most around the house as he religiously went to work at the same time each day and often had meetings or other events to attend in the evenings. He also later played golf and there was no competing with that.

But Sunday was carved in stone. We went to Sunday Mass before having breakfast and we dressed appropriately or found ourselves going back inside to change. Because there were so many children (12), my parents went to church in shifts.

One took some of us to the 9 a.m. service and the other went to the “high Mass” at 11 a.m. My mother did not believe in taking babies to church if it meant disturbing other people’s worship time with a squalling child. So my parents took turns keeping the little ones at home during church time. That meant my dad had to figure a way to keep us busy and content while mom was at church with some of the others kids.

He would put the baby of the family in that buggy and the rest of us would tag along to take a walk in the neighborhood.

On these walks, we always wound up in “the park.” Before the Woodsdale park turned to just a field of grass and trees, there were walkways with stately, old-fashioned lamp posts and a couple of small walking bridges you could cross the creek to reach the park.

If our parents only knew how much time we spent in that creek year-round they would wonder how we ever made it to adulthood. We searched for crayfish and minnows and even jumped off the wall into the deeper area near Hogans’ property. When it froze solid, we honed our hockey and skating skills on the ice.

In the summer, those Sunday walks often rolled into an afternoon cookout in the backyard which resembled a baseball diamond and sandbox construction pit. My dad could spend hours happily basting a rotisserie full of chicken spinning on the grill while listening to the Pittsburgh Pirates on the radio and dodging kickballs as we played.

My dad has been gone for over 20 years and American life has changed a great deal since his children were young. Congress can wrangle all it wants about the budget deficit and whether to continue gouging our kids with ridiculous student loan interest rates, but I think they should get back to basics. If lawmakers really want to do something to bring this country back from the brink of despair they should make it easier for mom and dad to be home on Sundays so kids today can know what it means to take a walk in the park on a day that once was set aside for family time.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at ziegler@theintelligencer.net.