Sunday, April 22, 2012

Simulating bravery

Ittybitty Surfer 

The weekend started off as expected. We had checked-in to the indoor water-slide park and in no time we were all getting soaked: the kids were in Splash-water Heaven and we were in Two-Dollars-And-Fifty-Cents For A Coke From The Vending Machine Hell. 

It was our first time, so we weren't as prepared as we should have been, given the amount of time (during two separate phone calls) I waited on hold for the next available customer service representative.

The descriptions of thrilling rides, drenching playgrounds, surf mountains and lazy rivers circled in the background of my thoughts like water down the drain. The images I wanted swimming around in my cranium were of my children, dashing through sprinklers and screaming down water slides; and me looking up from a trashy novel to wave at their exuberant faces from the safety of a pool chair.

“This was going to be great,” I said over and over again, pushing aside any thoughts of having to wear a bathing suit before the sticky, hot summer tipped the scales into the Not Caring What It Looked Like On Me territory.

Who was I trying to kid?

Of course I was going to look horrible in the swim suit. But more importantly, the kids were going to have fun.

What kid doesn't love spending 48 hours immersed in a slightly warm soup stirred by mechanical currents and flavored by hundreds of perfect strangers, many of them sporting fascinating tattoos?

I mean, who doesn't think being propelled backwards through a pitch-dark tube -- their expensive yet almost inedible lunch creeping back toward its entry orifice -- isn't worth the blockbuster-long line.

At every turn is an event that could change the world, or at the very least pave the way to future Olympic glory. Who's to say the next gold medalist in the 4000 meter freestyle wasn't once one of these hyperactive rug rats filling their mouths with over-chlorinated water and attempting to out-distance the automatic sprayer.

Who in their right mind could resist such a feat?

Not my kids, that's for sure. But I am not in my right mind.

Oh Resortland! … I see you as the swirling cesspool of my immune system's despair. You are the petri dish of my discontent. And yet, we soldier on through scraped knees, abraded toes, slipping here, bruising there.

Yet somehow the glaze I've painted over this pre-packaged recreation can't distort the power super-chlorinated water has on the soul.

I learned this lesson as Ittybit waited on line for hours to ride a few waves.

At first it seemed impossible. Each rider got ample time to test their skills. Once they found themselves either barrel-rolled into the crease or wash-cycled back to where they started, they got a second chance before being sent back to the end of the line.

I looked at my watch, rolled my eyes and gave a heavy sigh: This was going to take forever.

But forever soon turned into the luxury of seeing time stand still. Each rider ahead of Ittybit taught me something about perception and perseverance.

The sporty-looking guy was all confidence and bravado until he couldn't steady the board.

His girlfriend, who'd never attempted surfing before, steadied herself easily and nearly made it to standing on her first try.

The boy who wanted to quit when the water washed him back to the start with a sudden and uncontrollable force got back on the board. His brother, who high-fived him as they switched places, followed in his path exactly, both rides.

And their mom smiled all the way through her own two wobbly rides. What a trooper.

My daughter was next.

She hesitated. She required a steadying hand from the attendant, who held on to the board until she was ready to be released into the oncoming waves.

For the minute or so she was able to hold on to her balance she looked like a natural surfer. Seconds later the board skittered from underneath her, a gush of water rolled her backwards and halfway up the ramp. Her second turn was a fast-forward version of the first.

When it was over she rushed toward me wearing the biggest smile I'd ever seen.

She was ready for another go. I just shook my head and smiled. Where did she come by this bravery? Certainly not from me. I felt fear just watching her bide time.

But the more I witnessed, the less I worried about the price of frankfurters or whether I resembled one stuffed into a bathing suit. And the more I hoped some of her bravery would rub off. Someday I'd like to get the nerve up to hurl myself against a wall of water, smiling all the way as my daughter (and virtually everyone in the water park) watches me conquer the waves.

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