Wednesday, August 1, 2012

landing gear

My cousins lived on a hill. Well, sort of under a hill really. They lived in a basement suite beneath my grandparent's log house. That suite was as snugly outfitted as any ship's cabin. There were built in closets and cupboards and bunk beds, wooden walls and cedar trim.
My Norwegian grandfather was an amazing craftsman, as resourceful as he was creative and this truly unique space seemed to snap and crackle with life, a reflection of the energy and style of my aunt and uncle.
I know childhood memories are filtered through a special lens, but this was one of those places that really was as magical as memory would make it.
As proof of this magic, as a sort of exhibit A, consider the fact that a slide had been built to hasten the descent of any child from the edge of the driveway on the top of the hill, to the distant bottom, down amongst the Queen Anne's Lace and rhubarb. A long slide. A very, very long slide of pale polished wood. My cousins 'other' grandpa had constructed this amazing structure and buffed its surface to an inch of its life. Upon that wood lay the sheen of speed.
The sheen of danger.
I remember one fateful descent.
The victim was my older sister.
Due to the thrill or possibly terror of speed, she forgot that most crucial of all sliders rules.
She forgot to put down her landing gear.
Instead, she shot down that slide like an Olympic athlete, and sailed right off the end, levitating briefly.
Gravity did its work and she landed with a smack, like a pancake poorly flipped.
The scene was almost devoid of sound effects.
The onlookers had drawn in their breath in unison, and my sister had every last bit of wind knocked out of her. She lay like a trout, gasping and glassy eyed.
I believe an air raid siren was mentioned later in descriptions of her return to life.
The slide endured for a time, its legend, much longer.

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