The Spanish city of Valencia is dotted with many parks. Famously, Turia runs along a long stripe through the city in place of the old riverbed. In addition, it seems almost every block will at least have a triangle lined with green trees, flowering bushes, dusty paths, some benches, and a small play area for children. There is one that my family calls El parque de camas elasticas- the trampoline park. That is because among it’s play equipment there is a small low trampoline built into the concrete liner on the ground, where even the youngest can get a little bounce going. And it turns out that our apartment for our summer visit is right by “el parque de camas elasticas.” We walk by it every evening as we leave our family’s apartment and return to our own.
From morning til night there are lots of doggies walking along the borders of the park, peeing and putting down their little poops. This is a dog loving city. Sometimes you see someone walking two, three or four. Sometimes the dogs match, like the three Shih Tzu siblings, sometimes they don’t. The fuzzy-faced little terriers are on a leash, accessorized by a harness embroidered with their name (Lola, Thor), but the little old geriatric corgi mix is fine off leash, trailing behind their person, hustling when the apartment building door opens to the cool air-conned interior. A stylish woman carries her chihuahua to protect delicate paws from the heat of the day stored in hot concrete sidewalk. Another carries a 2 liter water bottle and douses and dilutes the puddles her little spaniel leaves.
During the heat of the day the park is empty and still. No one except maybe a few pigeons stop by. No one is sitting on its many benches, no one is playing on the swinging dish, the twisty slide, the teeter-totter, and no one is exercising on the aqua and lime colored exercise equipment. But in the evening the park hums.
Our first evening as we walked past trundling our wheeled suitcases it seemed full of old people. Every seat on a bench was full and there were more old folks sitting in folding chairs they had brought down from nearby apartments, or in wheelchairs or settled on the seat of their walkers. There was a card game on a small folding snack table and small devices playing pop or reggaeton music, oldsters clapping to the beat and crying out the chorus line, smiling with glee at their roughly successful timing.
Then we realized the park was full of families. Teens taking selfies in cute, midriff-baring outfits and swinging in swings too small for them. Big kids watching littles. Babies drowse in strollers and toddlers try out the camas elasticas, parents holding onto their chubby arms.
Kids are speeding around the park’s perimeter on scooters and bikes, narrowly swerving to miss passers-by, the kids are oblivious in their confidence in their steering. There is a water fountain at the corner, black metal with a fancy arch shape, topped with intertwining snakes. It has a faucet where the children fill their fancy squirt guns, over and over, sloshing in the surrounding puddle. I hear a rhyming game and it looks like Simon Says but the kids running and suddenly halting are saying, “uno, do, tres, pollocito Ingles!” (One, two, three, little English chicken!)
The little boys in the game wear their smooth black hair up on their heads in a top knot juru, covered by a white square of cloth tied around the bun called a rumal, identifying them as Sikh. Some of the women scattered throughout the park wear colorful saris, some headscarves. There is a slim dark young man in tight jeans and tee, unseen hair bound in orange turban. An older gentleman treads the elliptical in the exercise area in loose cotton pants and long tunic.
The children stay up late, and their voices ring and rise from see-saws and swings. Teenagers gossip and play. A little one is picking up leaves, blossoms, and colorful pieces of torn water balloons, navigating up and down curbs clutching their treasures. The baby in the stroller is sleeping now. An old couple is slowly strolling the perimeter, a daughter pushes the wheelchair while her mother takes infinitesimally small steps with her cane in one arm, clutching her daughters arm with the other. They chat as they walk, as the light starts to gray and the evening finally cools.