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  • When I arrive at Pier Park, I plan my walking route to avoid the beach, the pool and the clubhouse as much as possible. It's a hot day, the park is crowded with visitors, and I am not fond of crowds. I do, however, love the breeze off Lake St. Clair that ameliorates the heat slightly.

    Pier Park is a private Park, for residents of my area. As a resident, I have the right to come here and walk. But I don’t fit in.

    I think about being an outsider as I walk past the boat slips with their huge expensive boats. The only boat I've ever owned is half a canoe, which my second husband took when he abandoned me.

    To my left is open water, small waves lapping on the pier, and a sailboat, picturesque with its sails filled against blue sky, blue waves. A teenager drifts behind the sailboat on an inflated raft, dangling his feet in the water and laughing.

    Most of the people at Pier Park are wealthy, far wealthier than I have ever been or ever will be. They have smart phones, boat phones, fancy cars, big fancy houses and pretty children with haircuts and clean, neat clothes. If clean, neat clothes sounds like a strange thing to be envious of, it is because I, as a child, and later, my own children never, looked as neat or well-coifed. We lived in hand-me-down play clothes and ran wild in the woods, coming home scratched and dirty barely in time for dinner and bedtime.

    I listen to these kids playing in the water at the beach I'm trying to avoid. They sound like kids everywhere, as they splash, dive, build sandcastles, race through the shallows playing tag and Marco Polo. They sound happy, and I'm glad, but, if I could choose, I would not trade my wild childhood for this tamer one.

    (You've probably already figured this out, but I am the messy kid on the right.)
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