On a day like today, when it's cold enough that my laundry froze solid before I was even done hanging it to dry on the railing outside, it becomes difficult to remember the steamy days of summer, even though they are less than two months behind us. Although the temperature outside has just now climbed above freezing, barely, and the temp inside this unheated (by choice) apartment hasn't hit 60 in days, it makes me feel just the slightest bit warmer to think of hotter, happier times as a kid, running barefoot in the spotty grass of the front yard, gaining speed, my mind singularly focused on executing the perfect flying headfirst dive down that long piece of yellow plastic unfurled down the gentle slope. The Wet Banana.
Oh? You say you had a Slip 'n Slide? Loser. Wet Banana was exactly like the Slip 'n Slide except the sprinkler that you hooked the hose to to keep the whole thing lubricated was a plastic banana with holes in it. I don't recall a single banana-shaped feature of the S 'n S. And completely awesome as the wet banana feature of the Wet Banana was, it never did manage to keep the whole thing wet. There were always those dry spots that would grab you as you slid by, simultaneously giving you a good friction burn and sending you into an uncontrollable tumble. And if the dry spot didn't get you, that stick or rock underneath that you missed when preparing the yard for Wet Banana time would.
But nobody cared. Danger came with the territory. If you want the freedom of flying, you have to be prepared to crash from time to time, and the Wet Banana let us fly.
Of course, after a few runs and some head to toe scratches accrued from either that offending stick poking through or the inevitable overshoot off the end of the runway, it got old and we just ended up chasing each other around with the hose. Ahh, summertime and short attention spans.
The last time I had a Wet Banana-like experience was in college (That's what she said; now get your mind out of the gutter!) I was visiting a friend at UGA who's frat was having a beach-themed party, complete with Jimmy Buffet cover band. This was a novelty for me because I attended a quiet, frat-free college. A long roll of plastic had been laid out, hosed down and covered in dish soap. For hours nobody went near it until, sometime after midnight and many beers, my friend and I did the honors, paving the way for the more reluctant. Details are hazy, but it seems reasonable in retrospect that something like that be done in underwear. I can't say for sure.
Just as when I was a kid, though, after two or three runs and some scrapes and bruises, the novelty wore off, and we went off in search of a towel and some dry clothes. And probably another beer.
Today I think back to those carefree times in warmer climes and wonder: Do kids still roll out sheets of plastic in the yard and hurl themselves recklessly down them in the name of keeping cool and having fun? Are the suburbs still striped with those tell-tale swaths of dead or dying grass where the Wet Banana/Slip 'n Slide was left for too long? Do children today proudly bear those body-length scratches like a badge of summertime honor?
I guess I'll have to wait another six months to find out.
(And I don't want to hear any holier-than-thou comments about Crocodile Mile. That was for rich kids.)