Joy can come from the simplest pleasures. Wonder can be teased from what adults might perceive to be the most mundane sights. Laughter and memories that last a lifetime can spring from the most unforeseen places.
Master Blackwell's list of unexpected joys is a long one. Some of those I've been part of include:
- the sight of me flattening a ball of Play-Doh with my forehead
- listening to me make the sound of dripping water with my mouth
- being held high in the air and shaken like he was tied to a giant paint shaker
- and, of course, him inadvertently kicking me in the groin and watching me drop to the ground like a bag of hammers
So, yes, one never knows from where a child's glee will emerge. Ditto for a child's fear. Which brings me to last Sunday, also known as Father's Day.
To cap off what was otherwise a fantastic weekend, we decided to visit a local pool.
The boy loves pools. He's taken swim lessons, loves to jump in the water and play. And, judging from the vigor with which he splashes and kicks, the little guy either loves the water or wishes to beat it to death.
So we embarked, confident that our destination would be one the entire family would enjoy. And we were correct, right up until Mrs. Blackwell decided to go down the water slide.
She asked the boy if he wanted to join her and, not surprisingly, he did.
"After all it's not like mom would knowingly lead her son into a terrifying nightmare," the boy no doubt thought to himself.
As they made their way up the three-story platform to the top of the slide, the little guy and I watched from the safety of the shallow end below. As they climbed up, it dawned on me that Mrs. Blackwell would have to go down first so that she could meet the boy at the bottom.
The water is over the boy's head where the slide shoots him out and, given it was his first time going down this slide, better to be waiting at the bottom than watching from the top.
As it turns out, we ended up waiting from the bottom.
I watched Mrs. Blackwell go down the slide and about 10 seconds later emerge at the bottom. As she did, the lifeguard at the top of the platform instructed the boy that it was his turn to go down. I saw him immediately move to reverse course and go back down the stairs.
It was clear he wanted no part of going down that slide. But the life guard quickly convinced him otherwise, coaxed him into sitting down and then nudged him on his way and out of my sight.
Thus began the longest 30 seconds of my life.
As Mrs. Blackwell and I waited, the only thing coming off the slide was a torrent of water. There was no sign of the boy. He'd gone down, that much we knew. But he hadn't emerged.
We both watched, and watched and watched the bottom of the slide. My eyes then turned to the lifeguard at the top of the slide who finally broke from her stoic lifeguard pose and began peering quizzically down the slide.
When a lifeguard gets off their ass to do anything it's usually a bad sign.
At that moment, Mrs. Blackwell and I looked at each other and shared an unspoken exchange of the same terrible thought: "Should we freak out now?"
Turning to the lifeguard just a few feet from her, Mrs. Blackwell indicated that something wasn't right. She sounded concerned but, not panicked.
I, on the other hand proclaimed loudly that, "We've got a problem!"
No sooner had the words left my mouth than did the boy come whooshing out from the slide — crying loudly.
He was apoplectic, absolutely shaken but fortunately his mom was right there to scoop him up and make him feel safe. We're still not sure exactly how he managed to prolong his ride down the slide.
I imagine him with a leg propped up high on the on the slide, trying furiously avoid what to him likely seemed a terrifying descent.
In little time, we'd moved on. We were back frolicking in the water and the boy's good spirits had returned. All was forgotten, or so I thought.
As we made our way home, the boy quietly informed us that, "I'll not like to go down the big kids slide anymore."
He repeated the same sentence verbatim a few more times through the evening and finally before he went to bed.
The next morning, in what was an absolute first, I woke up and had another flash of fear when I went to the boy's room and he wasn't in his bed — he's always in his bed or our bed.
But on this morning he was in neither. Instead he was curled up down the hall on the bathroom floor. When I bent down and wished him a good morning he returned my message with one of his own: "I'll not like to go down the big kids slide anymore."
You never know where the good times can come from or, for that matter, the bad ones.
Message received buddy. But, if I was a betting man, I'd lay odds that this kid will be clamoring to go down that slide the next time we go to the pool, ready to add another item on his list of joys.