Monday, April 6, 2015

sliding down and losing control

Every summer, my family took a day trip to Dorney Park and Wild Water Kingdom. On the wave swinger, my sisters and I dangled our legs and felt the wind blow into our faces and the up and down of the ride lift our stomachs and then plop them back down again. We raced for the seats at the very back of the sea dragon so that we would be at the very highest tip as the ride swung back and forth until it was nearly vertical. And we closed our eyes and screamed.

At the water slides, we waited in long, slow lines as they climbed up wooden steps and platforms to the top of the yellow, lubed tubes. Down below, kids splashed and screamed in the water. My dad was sitting on a bench somewhere nearby with the small Coleman cooler that held our lunch, or the remnants of it, and my mom likely stood closer to the pool to watch us as we sailed off the slide and hit the water below.

When I was still fairly young, there was one time that I climbed behind my sisters and they slid down ahead of me while I waited my turn. Then I came to the front, and the teen-aged summer worker in charge of the ride waved me forward toward the slide. All alone, I realized I didn’t want to slide all the way down from that high up. I don’t remember now what scared me about sliding down in to the water, but I do remember turning around. After waiting so long for what I thought would be a lovely thrill, a cool splash in water on a hot day, what might have made me giggle or whip my head back in delight, what would have been gravity playing its part to pull me under water in the most delightfully human way (which is to say, losing control) – instead of all of this, I turned around. I pushed my way through the small crowd at the top of the long line to the top. I slowly made my way back down those steps I had just climbed. As I passed the people still waiting in line, some assumed I’d been denied a turn on the ride, maybe because I was too short or too young (though I was neither). They pitied me, while I felt tears sting my eyes, both from the foolishness I felt from turning around and passing all these many people who might guess at my fear, and also from my disappointment. I hadn’t been able to do it after all.

I think now of siting at the top of the slide, cool water sloshing around my bottom to help carry me down faster. I think of sailing around the bends, not seeing what’s ahead. I think of the splash into the pool below, not feeling the floor beneath me, water fill my nose and maybe pushing one my of suit straps off my shoulders. And then I think of coming up for air, and how I’d probably want to do it all over again.

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