Along For the Ride
“You’re going too fast!” she screamed to me, popping up off the tire sticking out of the ground under the seesaw.
They never had those when I was a kid, and as one of the smaller and lighter children in my class, I’d end up getting smashed to the ground when the smartass on the other end hopped off, my back almost vibrating from the jolt.
She screeched as I held her high up in the air, then I did my best to lower her down as slowly as I could, my toes barely touching the ground as I straddled the metal seat, my thighs burning like I’d just spent 40 minutes on the stair stepper.
Why do I have that stupid gym membership? I continued to bounce, now in a rhythm as if I was finishing up my last series of reps in the weight room. Oh right, the babysitting service, which was mostly true. The $30 I paid to leave all four of my kids for three straight hours while I did important errands, like sipping my Starbucks coffee while getting my toenails filed, somehow made the monthly expense worth it, even though I rarely went for anything but the stair stepper and the childcare.
The thighs I was willing to pay for, but considering my kids usually brought home a few illnesses with their 217 coloring pages and half-eaten snack, I was starting think I could just run a few loops around the block, or maybe just hit the seesaw every afternoon instead.
Her legs dangled just over the wooden mulch surrounding the tire, the tips of her toes almost touching the ground, but not enough to allow her to push off on her own. You could tell it was beyond frustrating for her, but she played down her discomfort with a need for independence.
“I want to do it, Mama!” she pleaded, not realizing that she just physically couldn’t, because if I dropped her all the way down, allowing the metal seat to pretty much bang me, there would be no way for her to lower me.
I tried explaining it to her, even pointing to the ridiculous seat up my ass to prove the point of my inability to provide her with the smooth seesaw experience, plus what kid doesn’t want to be bounced up and down? That’s pretty much at the top of the human child job description:
Must enjoy being tossed and bounced at a very fast pace.
That, along with whining and drawing on walls.
“We draw on paper!” I would coach her, after finding yet another wall masterpiece, this time a “road map, Mommy!” which was actually a long line of pen starting at my bedroom and going along the hall and into her room. As if it wasn’t clear to her how to get to my bed since she did it just fine every single night, in complete pitch darkness.
I’d often catch her pen, or on the really good days marker, in hand, and even though she’d look me straight in the eye and tell me that pens were not for walls she’d have already created a scribble mural, like she was testing my cleaning skills.
She figured out the Sharpie but will she know how to get crayon off wallpaper?
Tired of the rhythmic bouncing, she practically threw herself off the seesaw, and ran directly for the merry-go-round, which is somewhat of an anomaly, at least these days, anyway, since it’s pretty much the death spiral of concussions and dental surgery. I thought all of these things had been removed from playgrounds, given our penchant for the health and safety of our children unlike our parents who basically kicked us out of the front door and crossed their fingers around a martini glass that we’d be home before dark.
But there it was, in all its completely unsafe glory. The green metal, faded on the bars where years and years of children have grasped while screaming, where parents have grabbed desperately as a means to stop the beast before their child was flung off or worse, puked.
She ran to it, then around it, pushing it faster until she jumped on masterfully, leaning back and whipping around, screeching, laughing and laughing as the merry-go-round kept spinning.
I felt sick just watching her. I reached out, almost instinctively, to slow it down.
You’re going too fast.
But just as I reached the bars, she passed me, her face glowing, eyes twinkling. And I knew she was okay.
I knew everything would be okay.