I was just a young girl, not even six yet, when I first saw the gigantic round slide – the one with the ladder that went up and up forever. The slide towered over Children’s Playground in Golden Gate Park – it was so tall. It was the second thing I noticed when my Mom and her friends Ben and Joyce who knew San Francisco took me and my little brother and sister to the playground – we walked from the strange, flat with the long, dark hallway we’d moved into – after a harrowing plane trip from Chicago. We took a big plane to meet my Dad who was already in San Francisco.
When we got off the plane, my little brother yelled, “Look! Hills!” Brown billowy mountains surrounded us, and we’d never seen that before.
So now we were walking around – we’d already walked through the park past trees, lots of trees and flowers – before we walked down a hill and saw the most beautiful merry-go-round ever. I wanted to ride it right away. My little sister Jennifer was in a stroller, and Michael and I ran as fast as we could down the hill to look at the merry-go-round – with all the different animals, not just horses – but giraffes, zebras, even an ostrich! Michael and I watched the animals go ’round and ’round, and then we ran over towards the swing.
That’s when I stopped to look at the giant round slide. It took my breath away.
“Look at that!” I shouted.
“Yeah!” Michael yelled. “Looks scary!”
I saw that round slide every time we went to Children’s Playground, but I never tried to go down it. NO way.
Until the day David Hirrell from around the corner dared me.
Lots of kids lined up to slide down the giant round slide, climbing the ladder that went up and up to forever, waiting on a metal rung until the line moved. It moved pretty fast.
I shouldn’t be scared, I thought. I swing really high – almost higher than anyone. Why would the big round slide scare me?
“I dare you!” David Hirrell said.
“Okay! I’m gonna do it!” I stood in line, trying not to look up. When we reached the ladder, I approached it slowly, feeling the ice cold rail on my hands as I hung on and made my way up the ladder, the scared feeling in my stomach getting stronger and stronger. I felt sick, that’s how scared I was.
I looked up at the boy who was in front of me.
“I dare you!” I heard David Hirrell shout from waayyy below.
I kept hearing it, over and over, in my head. “I dare you, I dare you.”
Finally, I reached the top. Oh no.
There I was at the top of the giant round slide, hanging on to the rail on the side, standing on the metal platform, frozen in place. I simply could not move. My body wouldn’t let me.
“Hey, go down!” the kid behind me shouted, and then other kids on the ladder started in.
“Just go already!” someone yelled.
I simply couldn’t do it. I made the mistake of looking down and everything was spinning. I could see the top of the merry-go-round, the trees and the swings and everyone far below looked tiny. I felt like I was going to be sick.
“I can’t do it. I wanna go back down,” I said. Only a couple of people heard me.
“It’s too late! Just go!” the young boy with the freckles behind me said.
It was all David Hirrell’s fault. He knew I’d be scared.
“I can’t – I just can’t…”
“Awww, c’mon…just close your eyes and go!” the freckle-faced kid said. “C’mon!”
I shook and took a deep breath. That’s it. Close my eyes. I thought of the Beatles song, “Close your eyes, and I’ll kiss you…”
Close your eyes, yes. I closed my eyes and slowly sat down, amid yells of “Hurry up!” and “What’s happening?” and “Go down already!”
I could feel the cool wind blowing and hear the voices, but with my eyes closed, I was in a different place – and as the boy behind me gave me a small shove, I had no choice but to go down and round and round, sliding through a time tunnel into the abyss…sliding and sliding and then poof! There I was in the sand, and when I opened my eyes, everything was so bright again.
It took me a moment and the kid behind me almost bashing into me to figure out where I was.
“It’s about time!” the kid shouted.
I saw Michael and David Hirrell who just laughed when I shouted, “I did it!”