Life is a beautiful gift. We did not take it for granted today. Today we lived.
P: Mom, can we go to the playground after lunch?
P: The Rock Slide Playground?
We all piled into the van and halfway up the street I thought I should have grabbed my camera. Oh well.
I stopped at the last four way stop on route to the playground. A police car pulled up to the stop sign to the left of me. I turned right and I never did see where he ended up. A cop car passed in front of me as I waited my turn to go right again. I wondered if it was the same one I saw a moment ago at the four way stop. Not that it mattered. I turned right and was following behind the cop. He pulled up to the line of cars parked in front of the playground and I pulled up behind him.
He looked at me as he slowly got out of his car. It was at that moment I thought maybe we shouldn’t get out if a police officer was walking across the grass to a small group of women who stood up to greet him. Parker was concerned as well and asked if we were going to the playground. I told him yes but I got out really slowly.
Parker grabbed his cardboard and ran for the rock slide. I got Gwen out of her car seat by Braille because I was busy staring at the group of women and the police officer talking to them. We haltingly walked toward the playground.
As I got closer the police officer walked toward the rock slide. The women moved from their blankets on the grass under a shady tree to the sidewalk right next to the play area. They were all looking with anxious anticipation toward the large group of children on the rock slide.
One woman said, “That slide is dangerous!”
That feeling you have right now as you read this – that confused, what is going on feeling – that was me times 100. My eyes moved to the two orange traffic cones on the sidewalk in front of the sandbox near the women. Then I see yellow caution tape all over the excavator sand tools. Fight or flight? I didn’t know yet.
I watched Parker carry his cardboard and walk up to the concrete steps behind the rock slide. It was as if he was in a slow motion scene in a gripping drama. What would he find on the slide? My eyes moved from Parker for a brief moment to see about eight kids wiggling across the top of the slide. The police officer was standing on the grass next to the slide. Parker’s head could be seen as he climbed up the steps.
The cop was talking to the kids, calling them by name. Most of his attention was focused on one little girl. It soon became apparent that nobody was dead, injured, or otherwise. He was visiting his daughter! The moms had all made their way across the playground to stand near the slide and talk to the police officer as well. He knew them all. His wife was the pretty blonde in the maternity tank top.
Oh. So nothing at all was going on. Relief washed over me with a tiny tinge of let down. What a build up for a family reunion! I was grateful I didn’t change my mind halfway across the grass, just steps away from the van, and grab my eager children because I saw a police officer. I would have looked cuhrazy!
He soon left saying he had to get back to work and the moms stayed for another 10 minutes or so before leaving. Parker and Gwen played, oblivious to it all.
The weird beginning at the playground is over but the story doesn’t end here. My cautious heart settled back to normal for a while. Soon it would be anxiously beating while adrenaline pumped through my veins faster than oil is currently spilling into the ocean. Like Rush Limbaugh, I decided to do nothing.
The rock slide is the name the kids call the enormous concrete slide. Cardboard usually litters the ground in front of the slide. Still, it’s wise to bring your own just in case there are no leftovers. The cardboard has two purposes:
- To make the kids slide faster
- To keep their pants from prematurely wearing out
Gwen confidently marched herself around the back of the slide to the steps. When she tried to climb up the front of the slide like the big kids usually do, I made her stop and go around. All the while I was wondering if I was making a mistake in letting her go at all. She climbed up the steps and was not even phased by the steepness of the slide. From the front or the side the slide looks harmless enough, other than it is interesting to see such a wide concrete slide. But from the top it looks much steeper than it actually is.
A piece of cardboard had been left at the top. Gwen gave me heart failure as she plopped herself down on that cardboard, tipping precariously to one side as she finally swung the other leg around in front of her. I was in a half lunge position with my arms ready for action. What did I think I was going to do to save her? All I could see in my mind was baby girl rolling ungracefully down the slide, landing at the end with a bloody thud. Seriously, what was I thinking my pose was going to do?
Gwen sat up there readjusting herself on the cardboard with my heart either speeding up or stopping completely with every move. I stood there like an imbecile saying her name over and over followed with an “Oh my gosh!” I finally said, “Do you want to go down with Parker? Wait for Parker. Parker, go down with Gwen!”
He sat next to her and the next thing I knew they were speeding down the slide. Gwen was not deterred. She wanted to go again! Oh crud.
Gwen wasn’t about to wait for Parker either. No, as soon as she got up there she was on her bottom scooching herself over the edge to slide down sans cardboard. That decision was actually brilliant. She went half the speed and was in full control. I started to worry less as she went down several times. Until she grabbed a piece of cardboard.
The piece she grabbed was about as long as she is tall. She tripped over it a few times trying to walk with it but there was no stopping that girl. She is as persistent as Parker. I somehow managed to convince her I would go with her.
Now the last time I did this I was wearing high heeled boots because going to the playground was an impromptu idea after errands. I subconsciously dug in my heels to slow myself down. My feet were flexed instead of pointed. The back edge of both boots has been sanded down to the point that it’s awkward to walk in them anymore! I wobble as the sanded side tries to stay parallel to the ground. This time was easier on the flip flops.
That girl insisted on taking the cardboard up and doing it herself. I watched helplessly. What kind of crappy mom am I for letting her do whatever she wants? As her teenage years of possibility and dread flashed before me there was part of me that thought she would be fine. She already slid down on her bottom with no complications. The other part of me saw rolling, bumping, wild baby mangling herself with every flip and flop.
Once again Gwen was tipping and teetering precariously on the brink of disaster with every move. I went into movie mode. When I watch movies I am totally involved. I am putting my hands over my mouth or pulling them down my cheeks while my eyes droop. I am stifling screams, bouncing my legs, smacking Heath’s arm hard. Or I just grab his hand and squeeze until it turns black and falls off. The only difference with watching Gwen was that I was not sitting down and Heath wasn’t there to torture. My awkward football tackle stance resumed.
She slid. Fast. I wish I had my camera to capture the look of terror on her face. I wouldn’t have taken a picture though. I was too nervous myself. She’s only two years old! There was horror in her eyes. Her arms flailed out to the side as she tried to figure out how to slow herself down but it all happened so fast her arms never did more than flail. Her legs were straight out in front of her. Her feet bending at the ankles trying to skid enough to slow her rocket descent. She bumped at the end falling into the shallow hole at the bottom of the slide.
She got up, dusted herself off, and went again. And again. And again. I drug her out of the park kicking and screaming when it was time to go.
Today we lived.