Around noon today, three preteen girls and I sat in the front foyer looking rather woozy. Before us lay a gargantuan piece of plastic that, unfortunately, was useless until it was inflated.
“Oh, nuts,” Gabrielle said, after a mighty bout of exhaling. “I got my gum on it. Sorry, guys.”
The “it” in question was the air nozzle on an inflatable pool that was attached to the end of a Slip ‘N Slide. The day before, we’d bought the classic summertime water toy in an effort to stretch the very last days of summer holidays to their fullest potential.
“OK, girls, switch,” I said, wearily picking off the gum. “I’m going to get some Triscuits. I think I’m going to pass out.”
The girls continue to blow up the apparatus and I watched it slowly transform from an expanse of indistinguishable Chinese plastic to a plump donut shape. I looked outside, noted the heat was practically levitating the chipmunk as he ran across the driveway, and realized it was going to be a great day.
For I, for one, never forgot my Slip ‘N Slide experience.
It was my little brother Matthew’s 7th birthday and my best friend Kristin and I had decided to attend. That decision, I feel pretty sure, had a lot to do with the fact that I was 11 and she was 13 and there wasn’t a whole lot else going on in Headingley, Manitoba. That and the fact that I had a new shirt with shoulder pads I wanted to show off.
Though my birthday parties were often accompanied by nasty blizzards or start-building-the-ark deluges, Matthew’s parties were always decorated with pure, syrupy sunshine. So my dad had gone to Canadian Tire and picked up a Slip ‘N Slide.
The purchase was somewhat uncharacteristic of my dad, who would often spring for practical purchases like running shoes or our very own hammer, but would rarely buy anything that specifically looked like it was trying to market to kids.
But something must have hooked him that day when he saw the box showing gap-toothed children splashing along the length of yellow plastic in orgiastic bliss.
When he pulled it out of the trunk, Kristin and I inspected the box with cool detachment.
“Could be fun,” Kristin said
“Kids stuff,” I said, blowing my bangs off my forehead. “Let’s go watch ‘Supergirl.’”
However, when my parents screwed the garden hose into the Slip ‘N Slide and the water started to rain down over the plastic, I felt my resolve growing weak. When the little boys started throwing themselves down its length, Matthew washing off the hotdog ketchup he’d somehow gotten on his stomach, all I wanted in the world was a turn.
“Umm, wanna get our bathing suits on?” Kristin said.
So two gangly girls joined squealing little boys in the Slip ‘N Slide line. My first turn down the ride was a little painful. I’d thrown myself all in and consequently flew down the sheet. But I hadn’t accounted for the fact that the wet grass would not be nearly as slick as the plastic. I came to a jarring halt, with my flat chest acting like burning brakes and my neck rocking back like a whip. But I picked myself up and went to the back of the line, feeling exhilarated and addicted nevertheless. The next go-around, I perfected my approach and we spent the remainder of the day a-slipping and a-sliding.
As we blew up the inflatable pool today, I realized that time has solved the screech-to-a-halt design flaw and the girls were going to be able to careen down the plastic with abandon.
And as I watch them now, I’m so pleased to know my favorite 11-year-old outside is not too old for Slip ‘N Slide, that summer still has some juice left in it and that a little sheet of plastic is still big fun for the kids of today.