This summer we joined the YMCA so we could go to the pool. Almost every weekend, as long as weather permitted, we’ve gone. What a scorcher of a summer it’s been. The pool has provided a measure of relief. And the Maryland Farms Y, the location we prefer best, is not only close to us, but arguably one of the best pools in Middle Tennessee. We’ve really enjoyed going.
However, all summer long I’ve been bothered by the slides. I remember the huge story that broke a few years back when a boy drowned on a slide at the Y.
For some reason, both my husband and I believed it had happened at the Maryland Farms Y. Even though the slides have beckoned to my inner child all summer, I didn’t want to indulge myself. I felt uncomfortable. A child had died there after all. I couldn’t picture myself enjoying going down the slide knowing that.
Except, I recently learned it wasn’t at the Maryland Farms Y where the seven-year-old drowned. That tragedy happened at another Middle Tennessee YMCA.
It shook the organization to its core when it happened. It was the first drowning at a YMCA in 30 years. It’s the reason why we’ve rooted kids on all summer long when they’ve taken their swim tests. (Kids have to be able to swim a certain distance and be a certain height to ride the slides now, a policy that was instituted after the drowning.)
As I’ve lounged in my chair sunbaking on weekends or grooved out doing aqua zumba on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (which is held right next to the slides), I’ve contemplated the brightly-colored water tubes. Each visit I couldn’t help but think of the boy.
What did he look like? Which slide had he ridden on that fateful day? What were his last thoughts? How have his parents ever been able to cope with such grief? If they even have. And, the thought I had the worst time shaking: is his spirit still around, or did he move on peacefully?
Last weekend we arrived before the pool got nuts.
“Wanna go down the slide with me?” Wayne asked.
I did, but I hesitated. I instantly thought of the little boy. (This was before I knew he hadn’t died on those slides.)
Eventually I gave in and climbed the steps. The weather hadn’t looked too nice. It kept people away. We basically had the slides to ourselves. Wayne and I ended up riding them over and over and over.
A couple of days after that is when I learned it was at the Donelson Y, not Maryland Farms, where the boy had drowned.
We went to the pool today and I viewed the slides in a new light. Mainly, with some measure of relief. I didn’t feel quite so guilty about acting like a child the weekend before and having so much fun on the slides. I was actually hoping to repeat some of that fun today.
So I did. I almost died myself three years ago. And it wasn’t even doing something as fun as playing at the pool.
I slid for the little girl I’d been who had no idea she’d grow up to face cancer as an adult. I slid for the kids who would never get the chance to again, whether it was because cancer was stealing their youth or because something like a drowning accident had. I slid for the adults who won’t allow their inner children to take over for even few seconds so they can do something frivolous like going down a waterslide.
And then, much to the lifeguard’s amazement (as well as my own), I got bold and decided to see if they’d let me take my Kodak Playsport down the slide. They did, so I filmed it.
That’s the first video below. The second video is of a kickboard monster. It’s not ghosts on haunted waterslides you should fear if you’re ever at the Maryland Farms Y, but Waynes on the loose. You never know when a grunting, snorting, water-spewing kickboard monster may pounce!