For displaced, misplaced, and nostalgic ex-Bronxites

Echo Park

by Lottie Esteban


would love to be in Echo Park right now.

Echo Park was set between two busy thoroughfares in what has to be the geographical center of the Bronx. This surprisingly serene and beautiful piece of land was the best a citified Mother Nature could give to the children who lived in the neighborhood surrounding it. And even at our tender ages, we were most grateful to have it.

The park boasted the usual amenities - trees, walks, grassy knolls, and even a couple of playgrounds for the younger set. But then there were the rocks - not puny little lawn ornaments, but actual outcroppings of the bedrock on which the great City of New York is built. The majesty of these tall, strong, solid granite faces transformed a nice but unremarkable park into a place that was truly magnificent.

Grass and leaves would come and go with the seasons, but the rocks were always there for us to indulge our whims. As children, we played hide-and-seek or tag around them. We took some lumps on those thick Bronx heads of ours, but we always came back for more.

As we got a little older and began to feel the stirring of the heart that tell us that childhood is ebbing, there were those silly teasings - the boys escaping the girls by climbing to the top of the one called Eagle Rock and scrambling down the other side. And then coming back around, sharing shy and secret glances as we awakened to the wonders of puppy love.

A little older and bolder - the nooks and crannies in those rocks gave us some wonderful places to indulge those adolescent firsts - the first cigarette, the first drink, the first sweet kiss. We were always so safe in our castles of granite.

Echo Park was a wonderful place to share a childhood, but it was also a wonderful place to take refuge from the world when it was beating and defeating me. There were places nestled in the rock where I could go, just me, where I couldn't be found and I couldn't be hurt.

I would love to be in Echo Park right now to take refuge from my busy world. In the thirty-five years since I was last there, I've found few places that have the same healing power, none less than two thousand miles away.

The piece of land, I've heard, is still there, but it's called something else now. And in those hidden places where we had our first sweet tastes of the pleasures of adulthood, the rites of passage are now quite different.

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