Brian Mittge Commentary: A Juneuary Playdate at the Park


This week, I was blessed to take a long walk in the rain, stand in the rain for an hour or so, then take another long walk in the rain.

The walk was good. The rain was wet. The best part was the fact that I was walking with my youngest son and a bunch more fifth-graders during their annual trip from their school to Penny Playground in Chehalis.

In days of old, the walk was from R.E. Bennett down Cascade Avenue. With that grand old school decommissioned and students learning in fine new classrooms on the other side of town, we now approach the park through the residential neighborhood in the Snively district.

Whichever way you go, walking with a bunch of 11-year-olds as a chaperone is a hoot and a holler.

One gentleman watched us walk by with a smile.

“It’s like herding cats!” he called out from his (dry) doorway.

I smiled and said something friendly back to him, but I didn’t have much mental energy for a witty response. I was too busy herding.

We started out under umbrellas, but largely gave them up as it became clear that this year’s unseasonable rainfall would be an unavoidable part of the day’s festivities.

If you can’t stay dry, best enjoy being wet.

I saw kids jumping in puddles, sometimes strategically so, with a stomp-and-aim to “share” the splash with a friend.

As we walked along the sidewalk of 13th Street, we passed by the city’s rose bushes in full winter-spring-summer confusion. Half of them were in full (soggy) flower while the other half were waiting to put out their leaves. This crazy weather season is leaving us all a little befuddled.

With the full fifth grade arriving in waves, Penny Playground was abuzz. The happy shrieks and sounds of youthful jollity were heartening to this middle-aged dad. There’s nothing like the pure joy of racing around a well-designed playground with your buddies. I’m at an age now where I can muster up the energy to join them when necessary, but it’s more fun just to experience the excitement vicariously.

“I just love this field trip,” one of the teachers commented to me. “I enjoy watching them just be kids.”

A girl ran over to us, all atwitter.

“Did you see the greatest thing I ever did?” she gushed out, then described an epic slide off of the swingset.

An act of epic excellence is always better when properly observed, you know.

As kids played in the new Penny Playground, teachers took groups over for games of kickball over at the fancy softball fields. Seeing the big bouncy red ball brought back more happy memories of my own youth. It might be time for an adult kickball league around here, don’t you think?

On the way back to class we walked through the neighborhood between Recreation Park and W.F. West. Who should we see but high school students, also on foot, walking toward us. I think they were headed to the pool for swimming as part of their P.E. classes.

Seeing our young people out walking is good for the soul. It’s true that most of us are too sedentary these days, so I’m pleased to see our schools arranging for kids to walk in safe settings around our friendly town.

Others apparently felt the same way. Both a LeMay garbage truck driver and a U.S. postal service mailman obliged the kids by giving a quick honk or two as we walked by. The kids couldn’t believe how awesome that was.

Although I ended the day wet and and bit footsore, my heart was gladdened and my mind felt a bit younger.

Rain or shine, spending the day with my son and other good kids of our hometown is a tonic for the soul.


Brian Mittge’s family lives south of Chehalis. Drop him a line at