Once you've watched Mommy Dearest, you never forget actress Faye Dunway as deranged old-Hollywood diva Joan Crawford, uravelling into a psychotic rage and thundering, "No more wire hangers!" when she eyes one in her adoptive daughter's otherwise uncomfortably immaculate closet. The movie is essentially a chronicling of Christina Crawford's superficially charmed yet ironically abjectly deprived childhood under the bejeweled and manicured fist of her maternal tyrant. No wire hangers, no birthday presents, no leaving the dinner table -- for, like, ever -- and definitely no speaking till spoken to.
Even with loving, non-sociopathic parents, kids inhabit an adult world with a lot of rules and even more no's, because who wants to foot the therapy bills for some modern-day Lord of the Flies dystopia. But last time I checked they're not second-class citizens. They deserve a little fun, to make a little noise, to horse around, to act like -- children. And, let's be honest, the Ranch can sometimes give off a more "seen not heard" Dickensian less Disney vibe when it comes to the little people. And boy do I sympathize. Kids are a human ticker-tape parade of noise, crumbs, empty wrappers, and half-eaten mushy unmentionables; they eavesdrop; they get lice; they smell a little; they ask if you're pregnant or if that's your real hair. That said, they do ignore (read: are totally oblivious to) our annoying adult idiosyncrasies, and they are the Ranch's future homeowners, HOA contributors, volunteers, neighbors and friends.
Adult Politicking for Child's Play
And in the last decade or so, the Ranch seemed to be changing its tune to carry a more child-friendly KidzBop not Bach kind of note. One historic community overture made for our littlest Members was six years ago when the Covenant's ONE and ONLY public play structure was installed behind the baseball diamond backstop at the ball fields on Rambla de Las Flores. There was fanfare, ribbon-cutting, and local press to celebrate this cultural paradigm shift, because we all know the politicking to get it was anything but child's play.
Local mom-of-five Heather Slosar and a small group of residents slugged it out for 18 months with the RSFA, performing research, making phone calls, hosting meetings, and presenting to the Board countless times to finally get its approval to fund the $25,000 structure made by Bears Playgrounds company. (And if you think that's big-ballin', it's Asti Spumanti compared to the Vintage Dom cost of the defunct bar over at the Club. Just sayin'!.) But to make the cost even more effective, the group cut Bears Playgrounds $5K installation fee by finding volunteers, some of them RSFA Board members at the time, to help assemble it on their own.
The small playground was not much to ask for from an area so rich in resources. But it took a community-wide effort to cross the line. One of the many hoops to jump through was ensuring that the structure consisted predominantly of wood to befit the Ranch's aesthetics. The play structure also had to be at the ball fields, a designated "recreation" area, because every other prospective location was rife with zoning issues.
Play Set Hide and Seek
So, where the heck did our kids one-and-only playground go? Was it photo shopped? Were we ghosted? Were we on Santa's bad list and got Scrooged? Well, kind of. A belated Merry Christmas, kiddos, because in early December, without any outside consultation or Member input, the Trails and Recreation Committee voted amongst themselves to take the play set down supposedly due to a crack in the slide presenting "safety issues." You got a paper cut? Let's amputate!
So, let me try to wrap my wracked noggin around this one. This is the same Committee responsible for our Chelsea-Flower-Show-caliber-coiffed menagerie of plants, blooms, lawns, and glorious trails befitting the Queen's Balmoral country pile? With such a reputation, why would the play structure not be equally tended to? Were there not regular inspections of it? Why did it fall into disrepair? The Village Church has the same exact play structure on its grounds and it's maintained in pristine condition.
The wood is under a 10-year warranty, and the few plastic components are under warranty for five. Although the Committee allegedly never called Bears Playgrounds company to come out and assess the damage or find out what could be done before disassembling it, a Covenant Member did. The company is happy to honor its guarantees, but since the plastic warranty is expired it would cost the Association a few hundred dollars for them to replace the cracked slide.
So what's the plan? When Members have asked the Association, they say they don't have one. So much for progress. And what a waste. So, sorry kids, you may get your choice of hangers at home, but no public toilets (just the pleasure of port-a-potties), and definitely no play ground for you in the Ranch. Unless, of course, Heather Slosar starts stumping again. I wouldn't mess with a mama.