Chalk One Up for Me

Posted: August 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Extended Family, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Kate's Friends, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Scary Stuff, Sisters, Summer | 2 Comments »

People are constantly going on about how Paige is a mini-Mark. And some folks say Kate looks like me.

Frankly, I don’t see it at all. I mean, Paige looks like Paige. A small delicious dumpling with loopy blond curls, a button nose, and pudged-out cheeks. She’s still got those inverted knuckle dimples on her hands. You know the ones? I meant to take note of when Kate went from having those to getting normal convex knuckles, but I missed it. It must’ve happened overnight.

Anyway, Mark. If you ask me, he looks nothing like Paige. He’s a grown man for God’s sake. Lean—in case you haven’t met him—and all chiseled and angular. Not many pudgy parts to him.

I guess when I look at those two I just see Paige and Mark.

As for Kate, it’s even harder—or maybe just weirder—to see myself in her looks.

Which isn’t to say that Mark and I aren’t constantly labeling the things that the girls do as being either him-like or me-like.

Kate screaming a conversation from one room of the house to another? My genes. Her morning rat’s nest hair snarl? That’d be me. Kate’s love of sour cream, non-stop banter from the moment she wakes, and occasional “No one’s paying attention to me!” whining fits? Well, uh, that’d be me too. I’ll also lay claim to both girls’ ability to pack away the pasta, and Paige’s Herculean ability to sleeeeeeeeep.

As for Kate’s skinny butt, obsession with books, and tendency to hang back in new places? Mark, Mark, and Mark. Also Mark: Paige’s love of bikes and music.

At our nephew’s eighth birthday party this summer, Mark discovered something he never knew about me. It was at a pool party, at some fancy suburban community center. There were three pools, and they had one of those bright blue three-story water slides. The kind that have an enclosed tube that loops around like a big spiral staircase and spits you out at a high velocity at the bottom.

When Mark first laid eyes on it, he practically shoved the kids, bags, and towels in my hands and ran towards it, arms flailing overhead. He was giddy, grinning, and asking permission if I could watch the kids so he could do it, as if I was his mother. It was sweet.

Later, back at the kiddie pool, still all smiles from his water slide high, he asked if I’d gone on it yet. I looked over at the thing and said softly, “No.”

“Oh my God, GO!” he commanded. “You HAVE to go on it RIGHT NOW.”

So I went. Spurned by his excited insistence. Buoyed by a desire to be the mother of two who might not wear a bikini any more, but is still game for a good time. But really, scared shitless.

As I got closer, my spontaneous bravado faltered. I still wanted to go down the thing, to surprise myself with how much fun it’d end up being, but I needed back-up. So I enlisted the birthday boy who was waiting in line for some other treacherous thrill ride. I tried coming off like I was rallying him to join me for some big fun. Really I just thought it’d be nice to have some family around at the time of my demise.

En route we saw my niece. I got her to come along with us too.

At the slide, the teen monitoring the line indicated I’d have to go up the staircase alone. “One at a time,” she droned, staring blankly ahead. Here I was taking my life in my hands, and she’s just wishing she was texting her boyfriend.

I had a tight feeling in my gut, but dropping out of line at this point would be embarrassing. So I butched up and trudged onward alone.

At the top, another compassionless teen instructed me to “just lie down with my arms crossed over my chest.” How fitting, I thought. They make you assume a corpse pose.

Motivated only by my wish to get it over, plus pressure from the long line of young sadists behind me, I assumed the position and pushed off. My niece, who’d picked up on my anxiety (smart gal), cried out behind me, “When you see the light Aunt Kristen, hold your breath!”

It was every bit as horrifying as I’d feared. Claustrophobic, jarring, and with a slamming plunge into cold water to cap it off.

For 15 minutes afterward, I shook. I fretted. My stomach flip-flopped. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t trusted my instincts, and vowed over and over in my head, “NEVER AGAIN.”

Gathered round the picnic table, shivering and soothing myself with pizza, Mark was astounded. He had no idea I’d been so afraid, that I hate those fucking things, and that even after it was over the experience could continue to seize me with terror.

Rather than suffer the spectacle of my supreme wimpishness alone, I felt compelled to drag my sister (the birthday boy’s mom) down with me. “Well, SHE’D never do it either!” I said to her friends, pointing to the woman who bushwhacked her way through remotest Mexico, outwitted spies sent out to trail her, and shot films solo (and on the sly) in Asia’s Golden Triangle heroin hub. That gal’s sweet-talked her way out of tight spots and international dramas that’d leave James Bond stymied and whimpering.

They didn’t believe me. So I called over to her.

“Ellen?” I said, nodding my head in the direction of the slide.

“SHIT, no!” she said, knitted her brows together in horror. “You crazy?”

I turned back to her friends smugly, and reached for another slice of pizza.

A couple weeks later, I returned to the scene of my trauma. Or tried to. I wasn’t with a PTSD therapist, just a friend and our kids. But I screwed up the times, and it was closed. As a consolation prize to our disappointed wee ones, we went to some other suburban dream park, replete with a mushroom-shaped water sprinkler, paved wading creek, and a playground the size of Delaware. (I’m telling you, that playground was bigger than Rhode Island.)

The kids stripped down to their suits the second we arrived, and ran off willy-nilly, not sure where to head first.

Basking in the serene sense of suburban safety, my friend and I got to chatting and weren’t hawkishly watching the older kids. And mid-way through some “We have GOT to get sitters and all go there” kinda conversation, Kate runs up to us tear-drenched and screaming. I could barely understand her.

“It’s not like the one at school! It’s not like the one at school!” she shrieked, shaking and snotting and wailing loudly as I snugged her up in a towel.

A minute later Owen cruised up, smiling his sweet charmer’s smile. My friend turned to her son. “What happened to Kate, Owie?” Ready to accuse him of wrongdoing, as we often do with our own kids.

“Uh, she went down the slide,” he said, then took off to get in line for the swings.

The slide. Ah yes. Well that explains it.

That right there would be my genes.


2 Comments on “Chalk One Up for Me”

  1. 1 Kelle said at 2:51 pm on August 24th, 2009:

    I was laughing out loud. Hilarious story. Not that I’m laughing at you. :-)

  2. 2 Betsy said at 10:07 pm on August 24th, 2009:

    HA! Such a funny image of your husband running with his arms in the air, toward the slide. Will he do that again if we all go back together? And clearly, doll, you were raised to be poolside with a mag and a nice drink. Not careening down a death-tube.

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