Over the years, there have been moments that have rudely heralded the undeniable fact that my youth is slipping from my increasingly wrinkly grasp. Not the least traumatic of these occurred about seven years ago when my kids were six and three. Both were constant climbers, scrambling over, under, in and out of small spaces with total ease and fluidity. Once, as I watched them take turns climbing in and out of an upright toy box with sliding doors, I estimated that surely, my frame too, would fit comfortably into the box.
I was absolutely right; the box was large enough to fit my lower half, when folded just so. Unfortunately, though I neglected to give any forethought to…getting back out. Like Winnie the Pooh, my torso stuck awkwardly out of one of the sliding doors, while the rest of my contorted body waited patiently to untangle into the freedom of, anywhere but the confines of that toy box.
Giggling, my son firmly gripped my hands and pulled, while my daughter pulled him by his waist.
Next, they offered matter-of-fact suggestions: cut down on my honey consumption or, call Dad (never!) at work. Eventually, I was able to detach both doors of the toy box and slowly, excruciatingly, free the remainder of myself.
As a result of this and other serious miscalculations about my size, shape and physical abilities I was becoming aware that perhaps my physique had changed since having children. A family visit to a water park this summer further solidified this thought, when I tried to keep up with my now 13 and 10-year-old kids.
Early in the day, I was quite pleased to be easily maintaining the kids’ pace as I confidently scurried up the concrete steps, and endured the battering of each ride down the slides.
As the day wore on, however, all I was pleased about was my previous good sense to have sent our 13-year-old for first aid training. I was pretty sure my husband, moments before bright red from exertion and then an alarming pasty white, would not have the strength to administer chest compressions, or the extra breath to revive me from what I felt certain was imminent collapse.
I continued to haul myself up the stairs, one gruelling step at a time, grasping the railing desperately. I fondly remembered of the days when I could easily get in and out of a fair-sized toy box, and sit crossed leg without suffering aching muscles and drunken-like wavering when attempting to return upright.
When the kids decided to move onto a slide that, after watching for a bit we dubbed the “Treacherous Tunnel of Terror,” my husband and I decided it was time for us to become spectators. From the bottom, we could see each rider enter the enclosed slide, and then hear intermittent, smashing thumps as he or she was hurled from side to side. We would then see a shadow spin around, at high speed in “the cyclone” portion of the slide, immediately prior to the rider plunging, limbs flailing, into the pool below. Children would surface giggling, older folk, wincing and rubbing an elbow, shoulder or newly acquired skin discolouration growing darker before our eyes.
My kids couldn’t wait to ride again and again, trying repeatedly to convince those of us over 40 to join them. We resisted, assuring them that we would watch, camera poised, ready to preserve their spectacular drops forever.
…or at least long enough to provide them with an effective “I remember when…” moment when they begin to feel their own inevitable signs of aging.