“Champy got his first strep here,” a mom reminisces as she watches her towheaded, smock-rompered son get pushed down by two little girls after attempting to sit with them in the toy train.
“And I’ve always said this is where Cadie Lynne got the Rotavirus,” her friend answers, nodding her head. The other moms shiver and absentmindedly pat their diaper bags, feeling for the familiar bulge of the hand sanitizer bottle.
Despite its inherent germiness, it’s the one thing about the soon-to-be-bulldozed mall that by all accounts has been a resounding success: the indoor play center, otherwise known (in my house anyway) as the “play pit.” In a mall where shoppers have disappeared faster than weed at Bonnaroo, the arena seating around its indoor playground has consistently buzzed with moms, dads, grandparents and, every so often, a suspected pedophile. Before them, the 5-and-under crowd holds court, shouldering past each other on the slide, tripping over the babies who crawl drunkenly on the floor, and getting knocked on their asses by the ever present, Ritalin-deficient thug in training, whose mom carefully looks the other way.
Like most Bellevue parents, I’ve left the play pit many a time vowing never to return, but the very next rainy day finds me drawn to it like a buzzard to roadkill, lured by the promise of free entertainment for the kids, lunch at the food court’s Chick-fil-A and a tiger’s blood-flavored frozen ice from Beauregard’s. Lately, the play pit’s appeal has been bittersweet because, on Feb. 29, it will close for good and the place where all four of my kids have toddled, fought, screamed and drooled, will be no more. Despite myself, I’m going to miss it.
I’m hardly alone. Thousands of Nashville parents have at least one play pit story, often starting out like my friend Elizabeth’s. “Sara used to pull up on the mushrooms, and John walked on the frog’s tongue,” she recounted dreamily during a conversation about the pit’s imminent demise. But then her face hardened. “We were bent out of shape when they removed the big yellow slide because uncontrolled spawn were jumping off the top of it,” she said wryly. “Head injury, schmead injury. Lax parents spoiled it for everyone else.”
Ah, lax parents, a staple of the play pit experience. For them, it was synonymous with free child care, nothing more than a place to drop off their sticky, squalling kids before hitting the sales at Dillard’s. Meanwhile, a host of clucking regulars would watch the temporary orphans from a distance, one of them running to tattle so that the parents could be paged over the mall-wide PA system and their kids purged from the play pit.
“Would the parents of a 4-year-old boy wearing a black Dale Earnhardt T-shirt please return to the play center?” I can hear the tinny voice like it was yesterday. In fact, maybe it was yesterday.
“This is tacky as hell,” one Bellevue mom wrote to me recently, “but you can always tell when people have driven in from another county to use the play area...cough...the white trash/hillbilly factor goes up.”
Yeah, it sounds harsh, but you can hardly blame her. Minivan-driving, J.Jill-wearing Bellevue moms have been the butt of many an in-town mommy joke. The play pit gave them a little more leverage in the Mommy Wars, allowing them to poke their own fun at the Fairview and Pegram moms who often tried to pass at the pit.
It’s no small wonder, then, that a new play center is on the frequently-asked-questions page of Foursquare Properties’ website, the developers who have bought the Bellevue landmark. They say that a play space is still in the planning stages, but if they’re smart, they’ll build something that will put Bellevue on the kiddie map. I’m envisioning a two-story carousel, an exotic petting zoo and a water park. All free, of course. If you haven’t already noticed, we Bellevue residents don’t like to pay for anything.
Still, we might shell out a few bucks for the memories. The play pit equipment eventually will be sold at a community auction, with all proceeds going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. That means I’ll likely be the one frantically bidding on a few gigantic dominoes for my own front yard so that I can give a nod to the neighborhood, support a good cause and piss off my Homeowners’ Association, all in one fell swoop.
Well, I guess this is it. Good night, sweet play pit. May flights of bidders speed thee to thy rest...in the backyard of someone’s possibly illegal home day care operation.
gast/xray/whatever costume you're wearing today: we aren't talking about illegal immigrants. We're talking about asylum…
Lisa ~ "One nation under God" is from the 1950's. It was in response to…
When one has to depend upon ( and thanks) that dreaded and ridiculous troll, under…
In this case Islamic burial is in essence considered a "Green Burial", without a container…
Miss you Trevino it's been 3yrs and it's still hard to believe love you nephew..