Monday, December 20, 2010

Play: The turd or the treasure

Until last week, I had only been to one water park in my life. From that one day I have two very vivid mental snapshots: one of a fly-infested wound, the other of a lone piece of excrement lying poolside.  And so it surprised even me when the grand gesture that I proposed to alleviate my birthday party guilt was an overnight trip to a local indoor water park to celebrate Little E turning four.

Let me first explain my previous water park experience.  It was Water Country USA, during a family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia the summer before ninth grade.  As was the case with most of that vacation (and most of being 13 in general), I enjoyed it but chose to focus on its least enjoyable aspects. 

My most indelible memories, besides those of the water park, are miserably posing for photos with my head and arms in stocks in Colonial Williamsburg, watching a mulleted couple pass cigarette smoke mouth-to-mouth as they made out in a roller coaster line at Busch Gardens, and leaving much of the skin from my left knee on the sidewalk of my cousins' suburban Jersey neighborhood after tripping during a jog.

The last of these resulted in the gaping wound that after a day of soaking in chlorine attracted a swarm of tiny flies, many of whom became stuck.  I discovered the insects adhered to my flesh only after I spotted a piece of feces abandoned by the edge of the obstacle course pool. 

I still have a scar on my leg from the festering scrape that attracted the flies, but it is that second thing that has really haunted me.  When I told my mother about it at the time, she brushed it off, saying that it had probably been inadvertently dropped from a sagging diaper.  I maintain to this day that it was far too large, perfectly formed, and, well, mature for that to have been the case, and its origins confound me. 

With this close in mind, I stepped into the water park on Thursday night.  As it turned out there were no skinned knees, no flies and, best of all, nary a bowel movement in sight.  And just when it seemed I'd been all wrong about water parks, an enormous bucket perched atop the structure where we stood dumped a torrent of water upon us that nearly swept Little E away.  I now had a new image to add to my previous collection: terrified child, wrapped shivering in a towel and refusing to budge from her lounge chair.

I was tempted to revert to my 13-year-old self, as I often do.  But I realized I had a choice:  I could choose to focus on the bucket-dumping disaster or the fact that I was lounging on a chaise in 80 degree heat on a December night; I could see the turd or the treasure.

I'm proud to say that --at least this time-- I made the right choice.

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