Discovery of a playground

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The stage was set. Eighteen months earlier, 8-pound, 3-ounce John Taylor Simmons III had laboriously entered the world of adults.

He was soon labeled “JT” and became the main attraction of the large, well known Simmons clan. His existence was such that the main activity of the Simmons reunions had moved from discussions about IBM’s stock price and the role of America in foreign affairs to gathering in a somewhat circular pattern and observing JT as he sat on the family room floor and smiled.

By his mere presence, he had bestowed such titles as “Aunt” Becky, “Uncle” Ben, “Gramps” and “Nana” to the delight of the recipients. Though they had all seen a hundred babies grow through various stages, with JT it was as if they were seeing it for the first time; his firm grasp on one’s index finger, the squinting of his eyes when laughing.

It was the first warm day of spring, perfect for JT to explore that new world, called the back yard. As often happens with the first-born, restraint succumbs to extravagance. The once bare back yard was now littered with sparkling, glittering apparatuses promising to “keep your child entertained for years to come.”

Each was a memorial to its benefactor. In fact, the family banter involved friendly wagers on JT’s future favorite play piece.

Aunt Anna was sure he would not be able to resist her contribution, the Jumpin’ Jumbo Gym with its colorful stringers attached to the rails and bars. Uncle Ray had said “what the heck” and purchased a camouflaged, battery-powered four-wheeler. As others had given, the yard had filled.

Setting JT in the fresh-cut grass, all eyes were watching as his mother pointed him toward his elaborate playground and released her hold.

Hesitating briefly, JT started his halting steps. Past the $1,200 gym he ambled. Bypassing the $500 trampoline, he strode past the four-wheeler and the inflatable Play World.

Under the two-story tree house, he went and stopped. Leaning over with bended knees, he picked up a forked stick on which resided a long green creature. JT marveled, watching the wrinkles move back and forth, as the caterpillar wiggled his way along the bark.

Rex Alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is