I spent much of my prior career overflying the most strategically important real estate on the planet. For my generation, names like Bagram, Sadr City, and the Straits of Hormuz bring back memories of battles fought and friendships forged in the heat of combat. After moving to Laurel, though, I soon learned it has its own strategic high ground triangulated between the Scent Library, Pearl’s Diner, and Shugs. Well known by every child under ten is a perfectly rounded, green hill under the live oaks notched into the main corner of town just under my deck.
A few years back when new dads Ben, Josh, and Jim began using their fifteen minutes of fame to resurrect downtown, this forlorn, bare dirt park caught their imagination. What if their children could play hard right in the middle of town? And what if there was a kid-sized hill big enough for them to roll and slide and wrestle down? In what was becoming a pattern, imagination turned into reality through hard work perfected with their wives’ feminine touch. (How about a decorative fence to keep the kids from chasing a ball into the street and why not have padding under that Astro-turf?...)
Several years later, the Battle of Little Green Top still rages on. Every day happy warriors from Laurel (and when school’s out from all over the country) tumble and play on this most trampled hundred square feet in the South. Sometimes it’s Mommies and wobbly toddlers on play dates, with happy Dads meeting them on their lunch hour. Other times, rambunctious boys play King of the Mountain, while shy newcomers wait on the nod to join in. As on any battlefield, casualties occur. But a quick Snoopy band-aide and kiss usually does the trick. The skinned knee is forgotten and the child returns to the fray. Lots of things are forgotten over time. But not everything.
All too soon these children will be young men and women and the green knoll that loomed large in their memories will become surprisingly small. These oaks and buildings that seemed so huge, and this town that they couldn’t even walk across will seem tiny as well. After traveling the world, they may seem shocked at how small a place they came from. But perhaps one day, they’ll also realize that big dreams begin in small places.
Craig has served eight combat deployments
and is a pilot who lives in Laurel.
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