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What’s found at the park stays

Picarella Family Report

Posted: August 21, 2008 7:57 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2008 5:01 a.m.

At the park the other day my 5-year-old son found a pine cone that he wanted to take home. I told him that what we find at the park stays at the park. Without even asking why, he dropped the pine cone, and we went home. Good boy.

The next day while at the park, my son found a toy car buried in the sandbox. He was so excited with the discovery. He asked if he could take the car home. I told him again that what we find at the park stays at the park. This time, having found something better than just a pine tree’s dropping, he challenged me.

“Why can’t we take it home?” the boy asked. “Because it’s dirty,” I said. “Why can’t we just clean it?” he asked.

Good question. I tried to remember what my parents told me when I was in my son’s position. Indeed, I remembered. “You don’t know where that thing has been,” I said.

And since my son is a mustard hater, I knew I could sell him on the idea by telling him the car could’ve been dipped in a big pool of mustard — Dijon mustard, the worst. “Eeeeeeuuuu!” my son said. He dropped the car as if it were attempting to transmit a disease into his body through his fingertips.

The next time we went to the park, my son found a package of fruit snacks on the slide. He loves fruit snacks — his favorite food. Was this park a dumping ground or what?

“But the bag’s not opened,” he pleaded. Not knowing what else to say, I said, “We just don’t know where those fruit snacks have been, so we can’t take them home.”

My son had no intention of abandoning the battle. He tried to blow all the dirt and dust off the package, thinking that would make it all better. Sometime during his childhood, someone taught him that blowing on something that had fallen on the ground makes it clean.

If we were going to play that game, then we’d have to stick to the rules. So I said, “That only works if you dropped the package and it was on the ground for less than 10 seconds. Those fruit snacks have been on the ground a lot longer than 10 seconds. Maybe 10 hours. So blowing on them does no good.”

I had to fight my son gladiator style over this dirty, hard-as-a-rock bag of fruit snacks. He just wasn’t going to give in. “Look, Spartacus, the gladiation is over,” I finally said. “We’re not taking that nasty pack of fruit snacks home. End of story.”

My son dropped his head like he’d just lost his pet fish and had to give it the royal flush. Then he turned, walked the fruit snacks to the nearest trash can, and tossed them, walking as if it were that last walk to the electric chair.

Good boy.

The next day at the park, we arrived just as the gardeners were leaving. Their lawnmowers had sucked up all the fallen pine cones, and there were no toys or food to be found.

My son and I played at the park with a vast amount of joy and without the clash over some dirty discovery from the park’s soil. As we were leaving the park, I found a $100 bill on the ground near the bike racks. “Wow, a hundred bucks!” I said.

Needless to say we left the bill at the park because, as my son said, we don’t know where it’d been.

Good boy, huh?

Michael Picarella is a Valencia resident and a proud husband and father. To contact Picarella or to read more columns, go to His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of the The Signal.


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