Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Original Wham-O Brand Slip N Slide Summer

The summer of 1975 saw some changes & the Slip n Slide played an integral part in those changes...in my world.
My world was the open road of a seven year old living in central Florida. It consisted of bike rides many, many miles beyond the neighborhood boundaries set by mom, climbing trees & jumping roofs down the street, playing freeze tag & softball, skateboarding, the '57 Chevy, late nights and no television. And it was one of my favorite summers.
It was also the summer that we lived with no electricity and for a spell, no water in suburbia America.
By birth and by adoption, all 5 of us kids were blessed with our Mother & Father. When we came about, Dad was doing much better than average,personally and financially. Mom was the traditional stay-at-home mom (definitely NOT to be confused with todays soccer-type mom, no offense...but my stay-at-home mom liked to stay-at-home:)
As health problems besieged my two brothers for years, my father started having financial difficulties, then he lost his job. Things change. We moved into a smaller house, off of the lake...not even near a lake, where the land was flat and comparatively barren of trees, where the roads were wide & paved, where every house looked alike and you never got to meet all your neighbors. Those were the things I noticed.
I was seven and although things were changing, life was still all good.
A few weeks into summer vacation from school, we had our power shut off. After a few days, a few phonecalls (and probably some payments) the power came back on. About a week later, the power was shut off again. This time it stayed off for a couple months.
A family of 7, living in a 3/2 cinderblock house in central florida in the summertime with no electricity... Things could have been a lot worse ... in my world.
First of all, there was no TV. That was awesome. I'd never really liked it . I didn't like how it made people act ... sluggish, loafing, unmotivated and unmotivating. TV just made folks boring to be around... in my world.
So instead of turning on the boob tube after supper, we got busy.We talked & laughed, we played games of charades & cards, we made up games...but mainly, I remember all the stories shared. After dark and by candle-light inside or moonlight out, everyone had stories. Some were truths and some were tall-tales, but they all were insightful in my world. Or at least, they were entertaining. All the neighborhood kids migrated to the house...like moths to the light. Except, our light was provided by candles, the moon and our souls.
My older sisters and their friends would tell ghost stories & stories of 'I can remember once ....'. Mom would join in. She kept us on track...she'd start up games, share stories of her experiences & of her imagination, while Dad cooked supper on the Hibatchi. I loved these times. Sometimes, late at night Mom would do magic tricks to move us further from the scary stories and closer to the peace of mind that would allow eventual sleep.
Dad would usually make cornbread with supper and pancakes with breakfast. He would use the largest & deepest iron skillet we had & he flipped only once. His little flips would send the flapstack spinning 2-3 times, his big ones triple, over and over...but he unfailingly caught it right side up every time. It was an amazing skill & it greatly entertained me.
Things were pretty good, in my world.
And actually, even after the water was turned off, I was still digging life...although I could tell it was tapping my folks out. Not long ago, we were trying to figure out how long we were without water, ontop of power. None of us were too sure how long it was, but we all agreed it was probably long enough for some folks to question our well-being, although no-body did. Anyway since I am telling the story from my perspective, I'll tell you it was a week and however long it was, it was long enough...long enough for convictions to be questioned.
The neighbors to our right lived on a corner lot and their backyard backed up to our side yard. They had the most miserable dogs in the neighborhood. Two Chows that always seemed pissed off at the world, as they ran the fence-line on all sides chasing any sign of activity anywhere in the neighborhood. We avoided that corner of our yard as best we could. These dogs had a built in doggie door to the back door of the garage & if out of sight, they would seem to lay in wait for you make a sound. Any sound and Bam! They would be right at the fence, foaming and growling...looking like rabid little bears and they were the first dogs I ever met that I didn't like.
These neighbors were always out of town & had a regular dog-sitter than would come to feed & water the dogs for days at a time. I don't know how she did it, but I do know she went in through the front door and she never stayed long. I never saw her actually with the dogs, but she got them fed.
Anyway, this summer, one of my sisters friends brought over a brand new Wham-o slip-n-slide for when we got our water shut back on! Oh how excited we were! It was the dogs days of summer in central Florida & nothing sounded better than a Slip N Slide. Lord knows what poor Dad went through on this one.
I remember he and my brother pulled me to the side of the house for a huddle. They had the master plan. We would wait until after the dog-sitter had left & the dogs were busy in the garage chomping down. They had several hoses hooked together and coiled up. I would have to climb over the chainlink fence, ever so quietly, and just grab the nozzle & run as quickly and as silently as I could to the spigot. I was upset, I wanted Dad to pick me up and put me over the fence so I wouldn't make the fence rattle if we were gonna do this. I didn't understand Dad would have to silently hoist 3 or more hoses over the fence and hold them there to give me all the slack I needed to run with. Dad said he trusted me to run like an Indian, quickly & quietly and my brother reminded me of the Slip n Slide just waiting to happen.
My brother stood watch, when the dog-watcher left and the chows wandered in, he gathered Dad & I. I climbed to the top of the fence & for a moment on the top bar, I didn't know whether I should jump down or climb. Before that thought was complete I was half way across their yard, hose in hand. I threaded the hose perfectly (I was scared it would give me a hard time lining up right) and began back when I could hear my brother saying "Turn IT On, Turn IT ON!" Looking over my shoulder, I saw no dogs so I knew I had to run back now & turn the spigot on. As soon as I did, I realized the loud pipes peaked the dogs awareness...with a good last spin of the spigot, I spun on my heels and ran like I never had before. My feet were four feet in front of the rest of me. Dad was yelling and leaning four feet over the fence. The dogs foaming saliva was spitting onto the back of my legs. My brother was jumping up and down with an intensity I'd never seen before. I just kept running. I ran until I jumped towards the outreached arms of my father. But, he seemed to be letting me fly threw the air, even pushing me even higher into the air. Just as I was thinking I was destined not to be mauled to death by vicious dogs, but loose all my teeth to a case of eating dirt, my dad sprinted into a spin that allowed him to grab hold of me and end this venture with a big circular swing or two from my dad.
Whew! I made it.
Then I heard my brother say 'ut-oh.' He was holding our end of the hose up and nothing! All 3 of us were frozen with hope, disappointment and/or disbeleif ...then we heard the gurgling. We must have used every hose we ever owned because it seemed forever before the water came and when it came, it was scalding hot, too hot to touch & so was Mom. She was apalled by what we were doing & the risks we had taken...but what were we to do now? We couldn't very well just turn it off. My Mom marched back into the house & my Dad quickly followed her, as we hooked the SlipnSlide up and got it in place.
No sooner did we start sliding when Dad came back out. He helped move the slide further up the incline in the backyard, giving us more speed. It was a squelling good time on the slip n slide.Then Dad started squirting Dove dish soap on the slide. We had so much fun...we were slipping and sliding ten times as fast with the soap. It was crazy fun and we couldn't get enough. After of hours of rationing out the soap, Dad put some in our hair & told us to go head first.
We played on that SlipnSlide until dark thirty.
My Mom had my sisters' boyfriends do the dirty work with the dogs. Armed with left-overs from our nightly cook-out, it took them but a moment to turn that spigot back off.
That night, as we were all on the back porch winding down and talking, Mom started laughing out of nowhere. And she just kept on laughing. We all wanted to know what it was, but she couldn't stop laughing to tell us & before we could figure it out, we startled laughing too. It was infectious, we were all getting the giggles. Well, all except for my Dad, who was entertained, but still too perplexed to laugh himself. He kept asking Mom 'What is it? What is it? Tell us what it is!' Her laughter broke long enough for her to begin, 'Honey when I told you the children needed real bathes, where they could wash their hair .... ' but that's as far as she made it before she was rolling into another fit of uncontrollable laughter. Even Dad couldn't resist laughing out loud.
Needless to say, Mom sent the boys back over the fence the next day. We were slipsliding away!

From This:
I learned that Dads pick you up, not when you think they should, but when you need them to.
I learned that one may compromise their own morales when it comes to survival and providing for their kids.
I learned that one can cook-out anything
I learned that a game of charades beats a computer game and that a quality conversation beats a reality TV show.
I learned that when times are bad, you make the best of them.
I learned that electricity is a valuable luxury and that a healthy & happy family is a much more valuable luxury
I learned that uncoventional actions can lead to conventional outcomes.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

interesting story. is it for real?
As an adult, do you love or hate slip n slides?

skinnylittleblonde said...

Thanks for the comments...yes, it is for real. If I had the kind of imagination to dream something like that up, I'd probably be in a different profession. As an adult, I LOVE Slip n Slides! Until Next Time ~ Peace & Love

psycho-therapist said...

what a wonderful story and the essentual truths you learned from it. it's all in how we see things, isn't it? as a therapist, i am constantly telling my kids that they cannot change a lot of what happens to them but they can choose whether to become bitter or better. i see you chose better. awesome writing. more more more!!!