Late Summer Scene: A Playground in Carroll Gardens

A boy pushes a pink stroller up a wood ramp

A boy pushes a stroller up a wood ramp in Carroll Park, Brooklyn, on Aug. 22. (Isabelle Muge Niu/NY City Lens)

Cool breezes and falling leaves may stir a melancholy feeling for the passing summer among grown-ups. But neither seems to affect the “professional players” in Carroll Park, the children. Located between two densely populated neighborhoods — Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill — the playground is packed on the cloudy morning.

“PARK! PPARRRRK!” A little girl in red dress screams, attempting to dash across Carroll Street as fast as she can while still clutching her mother’s sleeve. As soon as the pair enters the playground, the little girl lets go of her mother and stops screaming. The determined expression on her face seems to say: Time for business.

One chubby little boy in a Superman T-shirt stands out in the crowd. Unlike those who dabble with swings, chasing each other in circles and manipulating the fountain, he is here for one purpose and one purpose only: to push a pink little stroller to the top of a wood ramp, with his head.

First he practices on the leaf-covered ground, experimenting with different forces and angles. After that has been mastered, he heads for the empty wood ramp. Clutching the stroller with both hands, he slowly bends down till his head is against the back of the stroller. He takes a cautious step. Another solid step and he stops to rest the stroller against his round belly. Slowly but surely, he makes to the top. He smiles down at the oblivious crowd and turns around for the trip back down.

Every real climber knows it is harder to go downhill. Midway his legs fail to keep up with the speed of the stroller, which tips to the side as he loses control. He falls hard on the ramp, face down. A woman turns her head and mutters, “Don’t let a kid play with that on the ramp.”

But he gets up and carries on with a determination one can only imagine to see on the face of Sisyphus. Many more trips are made to the top in the next half an hour. Many times he falls on the way down, but never once does he cry. Lunchtime approaches and the laughter and shrieking in the background have faded to a murmur. A man walks up to him, carrying an identical-looking little girl who is possibly the passenger of the stroller in his arms. The little boy is standing at the top of the ramp and for the first time in the half hour, he beams proudly. The back of his T-
shirt reads: Superman, Man of Steel.

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