Karma’s kind of a bitch. I admit to scoffing at the ‘winter weather survival tips’ when temperatures dipped below 32°. I rolled my eyes at my lovely neighbors and colleagues when they bundled up as I cheerfully walked the dog in a sweatshirt and went to work sans coat. I asked my crush at Starbucks for iced coffee despite the “cold” temperatures outside. I was stronger than these people – more adept at handling cold. Though I tried to comfort them with the knowledge that I would certainly suffer through Southern summers, apparently I failed to take that warning seriously on a personal level.
So, in the most pitiful whine I can muster, I’ll inform you all that it’s hot here. My favorite summer phrase, and the most often used, is “I hate the hot.” or some variation thereof. And I really do – the sweating, the pure helplessness to ease the discomfort because you have to wear something (and even if you didn’t, nudity wouldn’t help on some days), the hatred of being outdoors at all expressed through desperate trips from the air conditioned car to the coolness of offices or shops. But you can’t hurry on those journeys – it just makes the heat harder to handle. Freaking summer. There’s a reason it’s hot in hell, people!
In an attempt to distract myself from misery (over 85° in my house! In March!), I’ll assure myself that I have some fond memories of summer. We had a pool growing up, and though it would make sense to add water to my list of fears (heights, roller coasters, large crowds of people, balloons (they pop and it startles me), hospitals), I’ve always loved it. I’ll admit to a preference for pools over natural bodies of water, but I’ll take what I can get. In fact, of the reasons I will tolerate summer at all, swimming tops the list.
A close second would be family vacations, though they were often painful. Dad and I would fight, growing more intense as I grew up and hated the cigarette smoke more and more (cracking the window does not help either. I try not to offend here, but if you smoke and you think cracking the window pulls all the smoke out of the car, you’re kind of a moron), then Brother and I would argue because he kept putting himself or his stuff on my side. Perhaps I was the problem. It was hot, which makes me all cranky and out of sorts.
Anyway, on one of our 3 trips to pay homage to the mouse named Mickey, we stayed for 6 days at Port Orleans. I don’t think I had ever been that exhausted – little 7th grade Katie would be up by 5:00 to catch the first bus and take advantage of early admission to the parks, then I’d stay out with Mom to enjoy one of the many fireworks displays each evening. On two nights, I slept in my clothes rather than pajamas to buy myself 15 more minutes of sleep. Oh, and we all wore belt bags. It was awesome.
We set aside one day for water parks, and did all three in a single day (we’re nothing if not ambitious when it comes to sight-seeing!). We ended up at Blizzard Beach and I decided I wanted to do the family raft ride. We made it most of the way up the stairs before Brother looked down and opted out. Mom wanted to join him, but I stood, hands on hips, and told her in no uncertain terms that at least 3 people were necessary and she would be making the trip down in a freaking inner tube! Heat makes me irritable, after all.
It was finally our turn and Dad and I tucked ourselves into the far corners, leaving the closest edge for Mom. Hanging on to the rope that lined the upper edge of the yellow ring, I noticed Dad tuck his flip flops into the criss-crossing ropes on the bottom of the tube. I quickly followed suit.
Mom must not have noticed our preparations, busy looking around and gingerly settling into her corner. I remember, vividly, her looking up at the brightly-dressed park employee.
“Does this go very fast?” She asked meekly, looking worried as she perched awkwardly.
“Uh… sort of.” The girl responded, and sent the tube into a slow rotation as she pushed as down the first dip of the ride before Mom’s request to wait could have an impact.
I grinned at Dad, excited to be taking what we knew would be a moderately paced trip down the hill. Mom was looking around, frowning darkly.
“I don’t know if I like this.” She told us, and we quickly assured her that she was fine.
Then there was a concurrent corner and bump, and somehow Mom lost her balance and looked up at us from the bottom of the tube, only her head resting on the soft edge. Dad and I stared at her, surprised.
Then the ride got interesting. See, when she fell, the whole balance system was severely compromised. Suddenly, Dad and I were heading backward, while Mom’s eyes got bigger and bigger. Another corner forced a rotation and since Mom’s side was clearly lighter – having only her head for weight – she ended up going really far up the gently sloped walls of the ride.
“Wow.” I breathed after the second time, because she really did have some decent height on her ascents.
“Shut up, Katie!” I think I laughed, because as she was hanging on to the rope for dear life and getting bounced along the ride, spinning the tube and leaving us to gather more momentum than was wise, I didn’t think I was in much danger of punishment.
Meanwhile, Dad was trying to help by telling her to push against his flip-flop-shod foot, all the while explaining that she shouldn’t lie down on the ride since it threw off our balance. So as she swung wildly from side to side, looking more and more terrified, I giggled, and Dad espoused on her very refusal to sit up that was causing her to go so far up the walls.
She got mad.
“I don’t like this!” She insisted. I nodded at her, clinging to the rope myself, unable to wipe away tears that form with excessive laughter.
“This is going really fast!” She began, only to stop to blow out air to push the water away that would cascade in over her head in the moments between her trips up the walls of the ride. “I don’t like this!”
“If you’d just push against my foot…” Dad repeated, obligingly moving his shoe closer as he continued to explain that the ride would be better if she would just sit up.
“I can’t sit up! Do you think I want to lie down?! I don’t like this! Katie, shut up!” I tried to nod, but I was lost to hysterical giggles, much as I am now.
We got to the end of what was clearly the best ride ever taken, and I noted the signs that requested you stay in your tube for another few feet. Mom, of course, immediately rolled out on her hands and knees and ended up chin deep in the knee-high water. She just stayed there on all fours.
“Mom!” I chastised, embarrassed, “follow the rules! Get back in the raft!”
“I will not get back in there.” She said loudly, making me duck my head with a blush, looking around to note who could see us.
Dad got out to help her, and promptly lost his flip flop.
“Oh, no.” He said, also too loudly. “My shoe fell off.”
“We’re all supposed to be in the raft!” I informed them, looking back to see Mom crawling toward Dad’s shoe in the clear water.
“I found it!” She informed him, finally happy to have done something right.
I don’t know what happened then. I got out of the raft, careful to keep my shoes on my feet, and sloshed through the water. I had perfected the ‘pretend you don’t know them’ technique and put all my skills to use by hiding behind a tree about 10 feet down the path.
“Where’d you go?” Dad asked minutes later, interrupting his monologue on why it was important to remain seated in the raft rather than lying down.
“I didn’t mean to lie down! It wasn’t like I decided to almost drown myself or wanted to go that high up the sides of the stupid ride!” Mom continued to speak.
I shook my head at them and continued on, meeting Brother down the path. He was laughing.
“What happened? I’m glad I didn’t go. You guys looked stupid.” He informed us. Dad went into yet another explanation of how we all should have sat up, Mom reiterated that she didn’t like the ride at all, and I looked at Brother and laughed.
Some memories are worth the heat.