My favorite nine-year old and I play quite a bit of basketball in our backyard, along with floor hockey and NY classics like stoop ball and box ball out front as well. We often play a modified version of the game 21-basketball. I have to shoot from markers further out than fav nine. We both can shoot for a 1, 2, 3 or even a 5 point score. Our house rule is that the 5 pointer must be thrown with one’s back to the hoop. And if I get a 5 point lead, MF9 gets two shots for every one of mine until he regains the lead.
Though not much movement is required for these games I typically bounce around the court, field, stoop or sidewalk grabbing rebounds, ricocheting pucks off a wall, running for pop-ups, purposely hamming up some catches, displaying some decent agility and spicing up the matches with a lot of narration.
Certainly my favorite buddy is far more nimble; he throws balls my way with some reckless abandon and playfully taunts me with his own banter and verbiage. In the end though, our games do little to change his basic perspective and his inclination to call me ‘old man’ on and off the court.
Counter to that, I suppose, our competitive play has done little to change my chief view of him as someone other than—my to be very carefully watched, and rather impulsive nine-year old.
Recently though, the landscape has changed a bit. We had been vacationing with another family and their three children (two teenage boys and a younger girl). We had vacationed with them several times before, yet had never been to a water park together, and so we decided on something new for all of us to try…kids, Moms and Dads alike.
Shortly after we squeezed through the crowded park entrance and had our wrists tagged, the three boys were 100 yards ahead of us and they were quickly mapping out their best plan for taking on the day’s attractions. I rarely allow favorite buddy out of my field of vision in such large crowds. But he was keeping up with the teenagers, staying focused and even taking first crack at the tallest and fastest rides. Without knowing it, I was beginning to see a mature side of him.
A giant water tube of sorts called the Pirate’s Plunge was clearly the top attraction and also the most heart pumping enticement at the park. The teen’s father and I spent most of our day avoiding that venue and took on the more modest excitement offered by various tube slides and lazy river draws.
That is until about fifteen minutes before the amusement park was set to close and the teen brother’s came running to their father to say, ‘the line on the plunge is short and now is your chance to do it’. So the four of us turned and made a meandering run past concession stands, cabana tents and wave pool escapees. We semi huffed and puffed ourselves up a seemingly endless and winding wooden staircase to where we finally found my son patiently holding our spot in line. Patient as he had been, however, fav buddy instantaneously bestowed a look of shock and pealed off what he was thinking upon my arrival in particular. ‘Oh my God, my Dad is going to go on this?'
Standing eight stories up I’m not even sure what I replied, but I confidently took my place at the end of the line and waited my turn to make the return trip back as a plummet. True to form fav bud went first. Sans any hesitation he approached the starting block with the glee of a dancer and the calm of a monk. Given that safety dictates a rider must complete his entire course before someone else can step up we all stood in a row to watch.
The dare itself is simple. You stand roughly 80 feet above the hot dog shacks before the opening of a large tube featuring two steep falls, which are separated by a connector that is angled at a lesser pitch. The idea is to grab onto a bar at the top of the tube, swing into a flat and on your back position with your legs crossed at the ankles, arms crossed at your chest and sleekly disappear into an instant drop off and gain speed. Water runs throughout the tube to enhance velocity and the connector allows you to experience a second drop, in the dark, as you throttle up to breakneck speed and try to scream ‘Holy Sh!!’, but the immobilizing centrifugal fright prevents your lips from moving. A split second later you are rocketed, rather than plunged, into a larger chute of water that acts as a brake and forces water to make a round trip through your nasal cavity at about 60 miles per hour.
MFB’s run went gloriously and the brother’s were up next.
I had once taken on a similar challenge when my daughter was younger and this was the source of my confidence as I waited. But I was fifteen years younger, in my thirties, not my fifties and that thought was causing my self-belief to slowly lose some air.
Three successful runs completed and my fifty-something counterpart turned to me and said, ‘you go first and if all goes well I won’t chicken out.' Figuring that the quickest way to leave this park was to take a couple of steps forward and close my eyes, I kept on moving, not daring to think, except to take note of the final instructions and then I let go.
When I hit bottom and the water shooting out of my nose made me laugh I turned towards the observation deck and saw favorite bud, pointing, cackling and playfully rapping on the railing.
Clearly, in that moment at least, I was not the ‘old man’ and he was no longer an always to be watched, impulsive nine-year old.
© 2012 Christopher’s Views