The back door to the house I grew up in, swung out onto a set of narrow concrete steps. With no handrail, opening the storm door on a windy March day was like raising full sail in a hurricane. That was the kind of day my Dad called a “Winnie-The-Pooh-Day and the kind of day I called fun.
After the school bus dropped us off, I would convince one of my younger brothers to open the sail door first. With little brother flapping in midair, clinging to the tiny plastic handle and screaming how he was going to tell on me, I’d casually unlock the house.
After dropping my books on the floor of the hallway, I’d turn around and head back outside.
An orange rusted swing set stood a few feet from the back steps. The swings had long ago busted and been removed, but the metal slide still survived.Polished to a sheen with Mom’s precious waxed paper, it became a treacherous and savage ride.
Turns out, little brothers are also perfect for experimenting with the trajectory and uncertainty of a safe landing, depending on the number of bricks used to raise the end of the slide.
The frame of the swing-free swing set became my jungle gym. I started out stepping from the crossbar and grabbing the top pipe, then dropping to the ground, but progressed to hanging upside down by my knees. This was much more enjoyable when accompanied by Mom screaming through the kitchen window, ” Teresa Carol, you get down right now before you kill yourself!”
On one particularly daring day, I began to swing back and forth. The aroma of a slow-cooked pot roast wafted through the kitchen window and it guaranteed that it wouldn’t be long before I heard what I wanted.
“If you fall, I’m not taking you to the emergency room,” Mom shouted.
I waved and smiled.
Through the corroded window screen I saw her finger jab to my left, indicating a little boy with a broken arm. “I’ve already been twice this week from your brothers shooting off that slide!”
Not content with the amount of screaming coming from the kitchen window, I took a move from the Summer Olympics and decided to throw myself forward and land on my feet.
To my surprise, that is not what happened.
I fell flat on my back and, with a simultaneous thump and whoosh; all the air left my body. I tasted the tang of blood in my mouth and time slowed unbearably. Like I was underwater I heard Mom’s muffled howl, “Mike, save your sister!”
My older brother’s face appeared above mine.
I made note of the ha-ha-you-look-like-a-wide-mouth-bass-gasping-for-air smile on his face and vowed to pay him back…just as soon as I could get the oxygen to return to my burning lungs.
I should be able to tell you that it was the last time I ever tried that move. But, I’m a slow learner.