When A Hospital Was A Playground

There were three places, besides my house and school, where I spent a majority of my childhood. My best friend Chris’ house, my grandparents’ house, and Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Rarely did I spend time in the actual hospital though, as I was mostly exploring the research halls and offices with my mother.

She’s worked there for as long as I can remember; most of my memories of her are her with with scrubs and lab coat on. To me, the hospital was amazing. There were so many places to go and so many people to see. I was often walked through the building to be introduced to my mom’s co-workers. During these meet and greets I was treated with snacks and, if I was lucky, toys.

This may have been the domain of the adults, but they were all there to serve me. I was the main attraction and everything was halted in order to entertain this little boy. Sometimes my mother’s secretary would come get me and take me to the cafeteria. I frequently heard from TV and adults that hospital food was disgusting, but I had no idea what they were talking about. The food in this cafeteria was everything a little kid could ask for. Chicken fingers, cheeseburgers, ice-cream, soda, and chips. For a place dedicated to health, they sure had a lot of junk food.

I was in awe of how incredible this place was every single time that I went. Long shiny hallways with cool machines behind every door! A lounge just for the doctors that had soda, popcorn, and a TV! Let’s not forget my mom’s office in which there was a chalkboard that I could draw all over! The hospital was a huge playground.

As I grew up, I spent less and less time with my mom at work. Family members would be checked in for operations and I would have to walk past dozens of patients to get to my destination. This wasn’t what I knew! Where were the people rushing to greet me and give me a snack? Where were the shiny hallways and cool machines? Who replaced them with busy nurses and sick people?

I no longer wanted to spend time in the hospital. I was frustrated that a place that was so bright and fun could morph into something completely different in a few years. What I didn’t quite grasp was that this was the hospital all along. I was blinded by the privilege of being able to experience the side of the hospital was that bright and happy. I was blinded by the innocence of being a child.

Even the research halls became less fun. They were still shiny and new, but I realized that the machines behind those doors were to be used on people. I still did the rounds to greet my mother’s co-workers, but there were no snacks or entertainment. Instead I was faced with people doing their jobs. I wasn’t the center of attention anymore, I was just another person walking through the hallways of a workplace.

The magic was gone. This was just another building.

No, it was more than just another building. It was a building full of patients, worried family members, nurses and doctors. Everyone was there for a reason and I was too innocent to see that as a child.

They always told me that the world would change as I grow up, but that was a lie. The world stays the same, for the most part.

Me. I’m the one that changes. I grow up and see it from a different light, a different point of view. I see the hospital for what it really is and always was.

It’s a good thing, I know. But I still miss the innocence of thinking a hospital was a playground.