This is a post from 2008, but since my children are jumping up and down and begging me to get out the Slip N’ Slide today, I thought I’d run it again.
The neighbor girls wanted to play with the Slip N’ Slide today. I tried to talk them out of it, but when I realized that my argument essentially boiled down to “I would rather sit on the couch in the cocoon of my darkened house than frolic outside in the fresh summer air” I decided to just go with it.
I do not have fond memories of the Slip N’ Slide.
As a child, I recall feeling quite certain that whoever invented this device lived in a land far, far away from mine. The theory is that you lay out a long tarp across the grass, wet it, and when kids run and jump on it they’ll glide along in a splashtastic spray of water. In those yonder regions up north like Oregon, Washington, perhaps Vermont and Maine (you know, the ones that have things called “seasons”), I’m sure that this works out very well. I can just picture throwing yourself down onto the yellow slide only to be cushioned by lush, springy grass that helps you glide along as if on a cloud.
Here in Texas, that’s not how it works.
When we threw ourselves onto Slip N’ Slides, we were met with a bone-crushingly hard ground that was sparsely covered by grass that felt like old hay. As we slid down the yellow tarp for our three seconds of fun, we’d invariably experience explosions of pain as undiscovered rocks and sticks jabbed deep into our internal organs. Then we’d slide off the end into some fire ants.
The neighbor girls, however, did not seem to share my perception of this activity as abject misery, and set up the Slip N’ Slide in my front yard with unbridled enthusiasm. I tried to join in this all-American ritual of doing things outdoors in the heat and enjoying it, but I’ve been out of practice for, oh, 20 years.
I stood stiffly near the yellow tarp and occasionally forced a supportive comment about the sliding skills of the young ladies. Then my skin began to break out with unsightly red welts as it is wont to do when I spend more than 30 seconds in direct sunlight, and I thought I noticed the beginning symptoms of heat stroke. I shuffled over to some shade under a tree, and made a mental note to read a book that explains in detail how one could go about carefree summertime frolicking. When I thought of what I must look like compared to laughing, running children, I wondered if passers-by might mistake me for a statue of a sullen albino.
“Miss Jennifer! Miss Jennifer! Do you want to slide with us? It’s so much fun!” they called out to me.
“At what point, pray tell, will the fun begin?” I wanted to ask. “When my knees creak as I lower myself slowly down onto the tarp, when the ice cold water sends my overheated system into shock, or when my slide down the hill functions as a tactile tour of the various hard objects in our yard?” Instead I just shook my head, adjusted my oversized black sunglasses, and retreated further into the shade.
I had gone through the Herculean effort of wrestling my children into bathing suits so that they could join in this so-called fun. I saw that my two-year-old redheaded daughter, the only one of my children unfortunate enough to get all the Irish genes, was increasingly looking like a lobster despite being caked in SPF 45 sunscreen. People with our skin tone don’t need SPF; we need burkhas.
As all the children smiled in glee at the wonder of the Slip N’ Slide, it occurred to me that I should at least feel thankful that they were enjoying it. We’re safely removed from Austin’s fancier neighborhoods, so none of the children in our neighborhood have any idea that some kids have access to jaw-droppingly awesome water wondercastles that are basically small blow-up theme parks for your front yard. Around here, we can still get away with throwing some plastic on the ground, hosing it down, and calling it a day.