Monday, September 10, 2007

The Long Green Slide of Mortality

This weekend, we fled our box-filled apartment and hit the road in Twinkie. We took a 2-hour-long ferry trip to Vancouver Island and camped at our favorite Canadian campground. The first day we spent the afternoon at the nearby playground, the likes of which we have never seen in seven years of playground use all over North America. We've been visiting this place every year or two since the Mermaid Girl was not-quite-3. Back then, we were blown away by the variety of stuff for little kids to play on: a baby-swing roundabout, a metal helicopter, a water park, tons of spinning and bouncing toys. The big-kid structures didn't even register with us back then.

This trip, MG barely grazed the little-kid end of the park, preferring to mix it up on the big climbers and the big-kid hanging-tire-swing roundabout. We sat on the grass and read, glancing up every few minutes to make sure we could see her, free at last from the tyranny of endless pushing of the swing and constant vigilance at the climbers.

This evening, after a long afternoon at the beach, we took a detour on our way back to the ferry to swim at our favorite pool ever, discovered on a rainy camping trip three years ago.

This pool has three--three!--water slides: a nice, gentle blue one; a slightly faster and more twisty red one; and the legendary Green Slide.

The Green Slide is in a class of its own. To reach it, you wait for the lifeguard's okay from the regular slide platform, and then climb an extra flight of stairs, one person at a time only. At the top, there's a small room: no lifeguards, no other swimmers waiting in line, just you and the tiny green slide tube opening, and a panoramic view of the parking lot and the city so you can appreciate just how high up you are.

The Green Slide tube is so small that you have to lie down to enter it: arms crossed over the chest, legs crossed at the ankles. No one under 7 years old or under 48 inches. No jewelry, no glasses, no horsing around. The Green Slide is not for wimps.

The first year we discovered this pool, I got as far as the Green Slide platform, turned around and walked back down the stairs. Couldn't do it. As for the Mermaid Girl, she was still frantically clinging to a grownup whenever she got into water over her waist. Water slides of any kind weren't even an option for her.

The second time we came to this pool, two years ago, I went up and down the stairs a couple of times, then steeled myself with the thought: I'm 39 years old; when exactly am I going to be braver than I am now? And I took off my glasses and took a deep breath and went down the green slide.

It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was great, adrenaline-rush fun. I did it two or three times, just for the thrill of it, overwhelmingly proud of myself: I went down the green slide! And, like Jill Sobule kissing a girl, I'd do it again!

This year was different. MG has recently transmorgified from a cautious, timid non-swimmer to a brash physical risk-taker in all formats. She went on the roller-coaster at the PNE four times on her birthday, and sulked because she was too short to go on the scary free-fall rides. At our new local pool, she goes down the water slide at every opportunity.

Today at the pool, she was up and down the red and blue slides immediately and repeatedly. She wasn't so sure about the green slide, though; she was technically old enough and tall enough, but she held off for an hour or so. Then, after warming up by trying the red slide lying down, she did it. RW and I were at the bottom cheering her the first time, and she popped right up and headed up the stairs to do it again. And again. And again.

She wanted me to go down the green slide, too. And I wanted to want to. I remembered fondly my breakthrough of two years ago. But somehow, even though I'd done it already, it hadn't gotten less scary; I remembered just enough to make it daunting, but not enough to make it familiar.

Finally, after repeated reassurances from MG that there were no sudden drops, I tried it. And about halfway down the juggernaut of slidy twists and turns, was struck by claustrophobia: I couldn't breathe! There was water in my mouth! There was no way out of this thing! When I (literally) saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I almost cried with relief.

I had to sit down for a while to recover, during which MG went down the green slide two or three more times. I took the opportunity to observe that according to the electronic clock above the slide, her turns lasted about 15 or 16 seconds. I couldn't leave the pool scared of the Green Slide; reminding myself that I probably wouldn't drown in that time, and buoyed by MG's promise to go down ahead of me and wait for me at the bottom, I tried once more.

This second time, I kept my eyes closed for the ride, which made it less scary but meant that I got dumped out without warning and got water up my nose. MG kindly patted me and praised me and reminded me that she had kept her promise! She waited for me at the bottom! Then I staggered to my chair, and she skittered off to take the slide again.

Okay, I thought, as my kid splashed to the bottom, waved merrily at me, adjusted her goggles, and dashed back up the stairs: I got over my fear. I did it twice. But I wouldn't exactly call it fun: where's the adrenaline rush? Where's the thrill I remember? Why do I only feel shaken and vaguely nauseated?

I felt no need to try the Green Slide a third time. Or ever again, for that matter. Earlier in the evening, before I'd gone down the slide, I'd discussed it with MG and the Renaissance Woman: wasn't it weird, that I felt less brave now than two years ago? "Maybe some of your bravery went to me," MG suggested.

And maybe it did. Or something did. Maybe I don't need to try the Green Slide, or things like it, if there's someone else in the family to do it.

Or maybe it's just that I'm getting older, and so is my kid.


Blogger liz said...

"Maybe some of your bravery went to me."


8:34 PM  
Blogger The other Vanda said...

I bow down to you in abject admiration. I can't swim so there is no way in he double hockey sticks I would even try!

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh els, we have got to come and visit you! i miss you so much! --susan

11:06 AM  
Blogger wen said...

that pool looks amazing. it might just be worth a trip from california to visit it. seriously.

i used to live in santa cruz, and mourned that fact that the old time natatorium was now a game center with only some pictures on the walls to show its former glory!

11:13 AM  
Blogger susan said...

I love Maybe some of your bravery went to me. It's not all just getting bigger and braver, is it?

The pool and playground sound totally amazing, although I'm not sure I'd be on those slides either.

6:21 PM  
Blogger piper of love said...

I truly, madly, deeply enjoy your blog!


1:04 PM  

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