The Carousel of Love

I raised my daughter, Celeste, in Manhattan and we spent about ten hours a week in Central Park. She rode in the seat on the back of my bicycle through the park to and from school each day. Sometimes, on the way home from school, we ate sandwiches on park benches for dinner. On weekends, we entered the park in the morning with picnic lunches and emerges at night having also feasted on endless, free entertainment (not counting tips) and watched an array of interesting people speaking an array of languages. We had countless rides on the Central Park Carousel. My child climbed the “mountains” in the playgrounds countless times and I never forgot to keep a band aid in my wallet.
Now my daughter is married; has twin seven-year-old children and a three-year-old to round-out the army. She has a strong, centered and loving husband. They live in San Francisco now, about as far away from Manhattan as you can get and still be in the continental United States. I go to visit them 3-4 times a year, but it is never enough. Yesterday, they were in Manhattan, passing-through, visiting and staying with old friends in the city and making their way to a wedding in another state.
My portion of their lives this time was four hours. We met in Central Park at one of the same playgrounds where my daughter played as a child. My granddaughter climbed to the top of the same mountain that had been patiently waiting a generation for her. The skyline has changed but the sky has not.
My granddaughter looks like her mother and her mother looks like me. I know how that happens. Atop the mountain, my granddaughter licked her upper lip in the exact same way that my daughter licked her upper lip thirty years ago atop the same mountain. It was and is a sign of their internal excitement and inspiration. Same gesture. Different generation. Thirty years apart. I do not know how that happens. And I do not care.
What I do know, and what I do care about, at least at this moment, is that time circles back to scoop up its own children and places them, like fresh eggs, in the basket of eternity. And I do know that love does not hoard. And I do know that spirit does not end. And I do know that life takes no hostages and yet also spares no one. And I do know that we may be the center of someone’s universe for one inhale and one exhale and then they are gone. They may come back, but only to leave again.
Even the ones that stay, go. And even the ones who go, stay. The comings and goings; the gatherings and scatterings; the traditions and transitions; the introductions and conclusions; all take place as one generation hoists another generation onto the carousel, buckles them in with a flimsy belt that offers little more than the illusion of safety, and then the music begins, as does the creaking sound of life beginning to turn again; and then, suddenly and magically, we are laughing, loving, taking photos in hopes that the moment can be recaptured later.
A menagerie of people climb onto a menagerie of ornate carousel animals that go up and down and round and round but somehow also go nowhere, until a bell rings, and the music stops, and the carousel slows, until it too stops, and children clamor for more tickets to return to a circular moment of life that can never quite be recreated, but which can, at best, be remembered, until the memory also slows, and stops, so that another lip-licking, inspired and excited generation can take its seat on the carousel of love that is the only thing that will never truly end.

Dwight Lee Wolter

Carousel 2

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