arrived at just passed the last Friday of the month, so as has been my tradition, today I’m publishing something that isn’t about dragons at all, but rather is a finished piece from my archives that I take a fresh look at, often slightly revise, and post for your reading enjoyment.
I’m sharing a piece I wrote in a creative writing class in 2012, when we were focused on Memoir. I knew it was the perfect choice when I ran across it, because it’s a story from my childhood featuring my little sister, and just the other day she and I had a bit of a spat over politics yet again. But sisters are forever, of course, and we may not always agree on things, but we always agree on this story. 🙂
“The Slide Incident”
The Slide Incident has become a legend in my family, a tale of harrowing adventure and drama that is revisited every couple of years, on the rare occasions when my sister and I are getting along and feel like teasing our mother. It’s the most bizarre thing – you’d think that a mother would remember the time her seven-year-old kid, my sister, fell from a fifteen foot slide and nearly cracked her head open, the same way she’d remember her child’s first steps or first day of school, but not our mother. Well, that’s not exactly accurate — our mom does remember it, but she remembers it completely wrong.
We grew up in a fairly quiet, mid-sized Midwestern town, back in a time when parents let their kids roam the neighborhood with no more supervision than vaguely charging the older kids with watching the younger. I was one of those older kids in our group, along with my best friend Brad from across the street, and we would lead the nearly daily summertime expedition down two blocks and across one busy street to the full block-sized, beautifully manicured City Park. We knew families and other kids between the park and our own street and it was only a few minute trek, and the park had swings and climbers and more room to run around than even the corner yard allowed us. It was great.
And they had slides. I’d be surprised if anyone under thirty had ever seen slides like this – I imagine my sister wasn’t the only one to have fallen off them, and they were taken out and replaced with safer, plastic slides all over the city not long after this. Two metal slides set in a V, one leg bumpy and slow, the other straight and fast, with a ladder climbing fifteen feet to the apex of the V so you could choose a slide at the top. They got HOT in the summer sun, but they were also the highest point on the playground (fifteen feet is a hundred when you’re three feet tall) and they were so much fun.
That day, my sister and I were at the park with my friend Brad and some other kids, all running around like maniacs, as kids do. But suddenly, a scream sounded across the idyllic scene.
Now, it’s going to take me longer to type this out than how it must have really happened, but both my sister and I agree that it seemed to happen in slow motion, like in a movie. I can’t help but picture Brad all these years later as Indiana Jones, in fact. And my sister and I agree on the events to a tee – we check every time we tell the story, and it’s always the same.
My sister had been the one to scream. Brad and I, and everyone, looked up at the slide to see that she had somehow managed to pick the previously undiscovered “third option” at the top of the slide. She’d gone over the edge to the far left, instead of down the left slide, and was hanging by one hand from the railing, a hundred feet (fifteen feet) in the air.
Brad, my hero, didn’t hesitate. He took off, and scrambled up the ladder to try to pull her back up onto the tiny platform at the top. He was strong, I’m sure he could have done it, but of course just like in the movies, he reached the top, and reached for her hand —
— just as my sister lost her grip on the railing and let go. Brad was left reaching over the side (a la Indiana Jones) and my sister was laying on the woodchips below, crying hysterically.
There were, of course, no adults around to help us. So as I was the fastest runner (besides Brad, who was attending to my sister in whatever way a third-grade boy knows how), I took off myself, racing back the two blocks to our house to get my mother, who then ran back to the park with me.
My little sister was still crying when we got there, and my mom scooped her up and rushed her back to our house. This time the whole group of kids trudged back to our street to await the verdict on my sister’s condition. It turns out it was only a scrape, really, and she was pretty much fine – she didn’t even need stiches, which I was a bit annoyed about, since I’d needed them just a few months before – and that was that. My sister fell off the slide, Brad tried to save her, I ran fast. It was an epic tale for a bunch of first- and third-graders, something we would never forget.
And then, many years later, we found ourselves in bizarro land, and the tale became the legend it is today. My now-adult sister and I were having lunch with our mom, and childhood stories came up. My sister and I, together, recalled the Slide Incident story, and had a good laugh.
And then our mother looked incredulously at us and said, “That wasn’t at City Park. That was at Erb Park.” My sister and I blinked, looked at each other, and then looked back at our mom like she’d lost her mind. “What?” we both said at once.
Now you see, the two parks are really, really different in a lot of important ways. The most distinguishing difference is that Erb Park has a community swimming pool at it, one of the only ones in the city, which made a trip there pretty memorable no matter what. Erb Park is also blocks and blocks further away from our house than City Park – not too far to bike to, had we been older, but much too far for first- and third-graders to go to alone! We hardly ever went there unless it was specifically to swim, so we were rarely on their playground either, and my sister and I can’t even remember if they had the same metal slides there at all, let alone where they were positioned and if there were the woodchips we remember so distinctly in our version.
In another strange twist, my mom remembers us being much younger than we remember it ourselves; my sister was supposedly still in diapers, so we weren’t in school. And the biggest change in my mother’s recollection of the story is that my mother swears she watched my sister fall from the slide! In fact she claims to have almost made it to the slide to catch her, and certainly didn’t arrive after the whole thing was over.
My sister and I know we’re remembering the story right. It happened at City Park, with no adults and especially not my mother there, and Brad almost caught her like Indiana Jones. But to this day, my mom swears her version is right.
In the past we’ve toyed with the idea that maybe my sister fell from two different slides in her early years, to somehow make both stories true, but that seems implausible. And so the legend of the Slide Incident will live on in our family forever, never resolved, but always hilarious.
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