The Rocket Ship Slide

I remember it to be impossibly tall, metal, and of course red, white, and blue. The metal bars were painted blue but the glint of the metal always showed though where weather and children had taken their toll on the paint’s luster. The rocket ship slide at the local park was a thing of beauty and glory, and climbing into the ship and ascending the levels was scary, exhilarating, and suffocating. While basically open air, the top was still cramped and hot, and if two people were on the top plateau then your bodies were wedged together and contorted like child performers in Cirque du Soleil. I remember the sensation of running my fingers over the grooves of carved initials, JT + KB 4-ever, Kiss, ZZ-Top, and hearts etched into the metal, a permanent reminder of summer hood adolescence.

At the park you developed flash friendships: a girl of approximately the same age, dressed in brightly colored shorts and a pair of pink jellies that you coveted. As you climbed one behind each other up the endless staircase to the top of the rocket you swore that you would be friends forever and you told each other secrets, some true and some lies, to impress one another.

“What is your phone number?”

“555-6789”

“555-6789,” repeated over and over so you wouldn’t forget.

“We’ll call each other every night.”

Of course within moments of your new best friend leaving the phone number would leave, as did her name and the memory of her face.

The top of the rocket smelled of sweat, grass, and summer. It wasn’t at all comfortable to be there, but the top landing was much desired, and no amount of begging from the other children would make you give up your spot. There was a hierarchy to who was allowed up, and when you were on top you were queen of the playground. From your vantage point you could see the swings, monkey bars, and the water pipe that ran through the park. In the distance you could hear the carrousel music and the occasional screams from someone on the tilt-a-whirl.  That part of the park cost money and was for more special occasions. At the rocket ship playground we played for free, and hours could be spent pretending to be a tightrope walker on the water pipe.

If or when the decision was made to leave your post at the top of the slide, there was two ways down. You could back out and climb down the stairs, retracing your steps and taking that last little leap to solid dirt. Or you could take the slide, silver and the same temperature as the sun. Choosing to slide was an act of bravery. As you went down the steep slide you had to remember to keep your thighs up as to not burn and scrape off layers of skin. With your hands on the side of the slide you would descend and, depending on your rate of speed, your hands would burn from the friction. You jelly shoes would hit the dirt with an audible thunk and a small dust storm would appear. Your feet were left with dirty hash marks and grit caked in between your toes.

It was summer, youth, simple, and beautiful. I miss that slide and the memories it held.

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That Time My Kid Was Kind of an Ass

As a parent I have always felt like my one job is making sure that my kids aren’t assholes. Overall, I am feeling pretty good about my success rate. The oldest two are neither racist nor homophobic. They are witty and have opinions. They work, travel, and have varied interests. I know that Kiaya would never walk down the mall corridor with her hand in someone else’s back pocket.  I don’t think that Selena would do that, but I do think she may have at least once made out behind a mall Pro Active machine. Selena has a larger sense of whimsy than her older sister. The one I worry about is Saidee. She is the youngest, only six as of this post, and she is our princess. She is sweet and loving. She weighs a lot and still wants to be carried to bed every night. She is our third daughter; she is both the youngest child and an only child, due to the large age differences. She also had an invisible vampire friend named Spike.

The girls and I are TV people. We love it and many of our conversations revolve around the lives of fictional people. We talk about them, dissect their intent, worry about them, and question their decision making. Here are examples of text messages I receive:

“What is Meredith going to do without Christine? Christine is her person, Momma.”

“If Jesse dies I don’t know what I will do. They won’t kill Jesse, will they?”

“I have really thought about it and I think I could be Jax’s old lady.”

“I need you to make sure Supernatural and The Walking Dead are Tivoing.”

These messages are not unusual; they happen at least twice a week. One of our biggest bonding experiences is a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched the show when it was originally on and I may or may not have cried once when I missed it. On a list of 100 things I wanted in a mate, number one was someone who will shut-up while I watch Buffy. They don’t have to like it, but they do need to be silent. Kiaya was the first to jump on my Buffy bandwagon and later Selena. It was Kiaya who introduced Saidee. They would spend long hours cuddled up together watching on the portable DVD player and later the laptop. The questionable parenting skill part comes into play when I bring up that Saidee was three when this practice started.

Saidee was never scared of the violence, she was oblivious to the sex, and didn’t get the humor. What she did get was the knowledge that if something went wrong you could blame Spike. Spike was a few hundred years old vampire who looked like Billy Idol. Actually Billy stole his look from Spike. He was funny, crafty, evil (but with a heart of gold), and the best part was he wasn’t all whiney and put upon like Angel. The three year old was pretty quick with blaming everything she did wrong on that blonde vampire. Some of his crimes included: coloring on the walls, coloring on shoes, throwing toys, shredding paper, and trashing bedrooms. Spike was a busy invisible friend/petty criminal.

To Saidee, Selena’s room is a fascinating land of things she isn’t allowed to touch. It is a toddler Vatican, filled with figurines, paintings, art supplies, and treasured baby dolls from Selena’s youth. Much of Spike’s atrocities took place in Selena’s room. We once found a strip of blue fabric on the floor. When I asked Saidee what it was she shrugged her toddler shoulders and said she didn’t know. When we found a second strip we began to investigate and noticed that “someone” had taken scissors and cut up the bottom half of Selena’s sheets.

“Saidee why did you cut up the sheets?”

“I didn’t.”

“Saidee, it was you, you are the only other person in the house.”

“I didn’t do it.”

“Saidee, really.”

“It was Spike.”

At this point we have tears.

“Saidee it wasn’t Spike it was you. Please, admit it.”

“It was Spike. Or it was my toes.”

I put a high premium on creativity; but come on, this kid and her vamp were just being assholes. Kiaya and Selena were busy when they were little, but their busy was nothing compared to the busy that Saidee and Spike laid down. I refuse to blame the 15 year age difference. I am still young and spry, right?

One night I had been in the back of the house and had lost track of the toddler. Only a few minutes had passed when I started walking towards her bedroom. With each step I took I heard a small voice.

“Spike did it.”

“Spike did it.”

“Spike did it.”

With each step I took her voice became louder and more insistent. It held a panicky waiver.

“SPIKE DID IT!”

I found her covered in lipstick. Most of her face was covered in a lovely Revlon wine color. It was on her hands, the wall, and the mirror. She cried hot tears and swore that this was all the work of that blonde vampire. Carvell had come running and we were unable to stop laughing.

“God, Heather, that vampire is a fucking asshole,” he laughed.

Eventually Saidee stopped blaming Spike. We tried to convince her that he had moved, that he had packed his bags, blacked out his windows, and drove off in his DeSoto. She really just outgrew him and no longer needed someone to blame her crimes on. Oddly, I miss him sometimes or more likely I miss the three-year-old she was.

One of Spike's crimes, of course.

One of Spike’s crimes, of course.saidee spike 1