19. Who Wears Pink Shorts?

19. Who Wears Pink Shorts?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Who Wears Pink Shorts?

Humiliation—The harder you try, the dumber you look.

~Larry Kersten

Why did my sister, of all people, insist that we go, of all places, to the water park? She knew my skin had not seen the light of day since I gave birth to my last child eight years ago. Why now? Why there?

Images of me in a bathing suit sent shivers up and down my spine. People would recognize me! Of course, they might not recognize me in a bathing suit. My own children wouldn’t. If I covered my head with a paper bag, my husband would be hard-pressed to pick me out in a bathing suit line-up.

“I haven’t been in a bathing suit in years!” I replied.

Karen shrugged. “Neither have I, but I bought one this year. Besides,” she explained, “the kids really want to go. We don’t go on vacation often, and I think the water park would be a lot of fun.”

Because Karen took the plunge, I followed her example. I checked out every angle three times and wasn’t happy with any of them. When I finally stepped from the bathroom, I was also wearing a pair of pink denim shorts. Being half-covered made a big difference. My son was pleased, my two daughters were impressed, and my sister was encouraging. What more could I ask for?

As soon as we stepped from the car, several people recognized me. I introduced them to my sister and her family, and I prayed I would have the nerve to take my T-shirt off once we got into the park. Having been a local newspaper reporter for the past eight years, everyone in the area knew me. What they didn’t know is that I was cringing under my T-shirt and shorts.

We spent the entire day at the park. I honestly can’t recall when I have had as much fun. So when my son grabbed my hand and insisted I go on the water slide with him, I had no reservations. We climbed the steps and waited in line, watching everyone zoom down the slide, anxious for our turn.

The older children zipped down like pros, shrieking in delight. Karen went down like a bullet. My son jumped on the slide and sailed down effortlessly. Then it was my turn. I quickly positioned myself on the slide, raised my now-sunburned arms in the air over my head, and called down, “Here I come!” My heart beat rapidly as I zipped downward.

But then something happened. About twenty feet down the slide, I jerked to a halt.

Behind me, the attendant picked up her bullhorn and shouted loudly, “Ma’am, you cannot stop on the slide.”

Confused, I turned to her. “I didn’t.” I surveyed the miniscule amount of water rushing around my hips and innocently glanced back over my shoulder. “Did somebody shut off the water?” I asked.

“Ma’am, you must go down!” she said.

“I’m trying… Something’s wrong,” I replied, as I inch-wormed down another couple of feet.

Across the park, I heard another bullhorn come to life as the park manager questioned his attendants, “What’s the problem?”

“A lady’s stuck on the water slide.”

My face flamed. A lady’s stuck on the water slide? Me? Oh, my God! Was this really happening? Wasn’t Homer Simpson the only one who got stuck on a water slide?

Worse, through all the bullhorns and people shouting, I heard my sister laugh. My gaze zoomed downward. Karen was laughing so hard she couldn’t get out of the water! I glared at her.

As I sat there, attempting to inch downward, I silently prayed that God had seen fit to keep all cameras out of the park on this particularly sunny day. I could just see myself gracing the front page of my own newspaper—a bright pink object stuck on a big yellow slide in the middle of a hill, exposed for the entire world to see. There was no dignity in this trick, and quite possibly, if she had been handy, I would have entertained thoughts of offering up my firstborn in order to get off this slide. Unfortunately, my firstborn was at the bottom of the hill drumming up sympathy for her mother.

“Puh-lease get her down! That’s my mom!”

Another bullhorn sounded. “Don’t worry, folks. She’s going to be fine. We’ll have her down in no time.”

The bright red stain on my face had nothing to do with sunburn.

“Try lying down,” shouted a voice from far below.

To my abject horror, half the park had gathered at the base of the hill, some in the water, some on the sidelines, and all eyes were focused on me! My children waved and called out earnestly, “Momma, please come down!”

Oh, Lord, but that was a difficult moment.

I turned away from the sea of faces and looked at the tunnel I was slowly approaching. With renewed strength, I attempted to shift over to the side of the slide and climb out. Perhaps I could salvage a teeny bit of pride? Seeing my intention, the attendants with the bullhorns shouted, “Ma’am, you must go down!”

Being stuck on a water slide is like being born. There are no choices. One way or another, you have to go down through the tunnel and drop out into the world.

Cringing, I scooted back onto the slide and lifted one leg at a time, allowing the water to slip beneath my legs. An inch at a time, I wiggled my way toward my halfway point: the tunnel. When I reached the tunnel and was at least partially concealed, I wiggled frantically.

It only took a few minutes to free myself from that horrible water slide, but with the world watching it seemed like an eternity. The replay of voices—“I don’t know what’s wrong—she’s just stuck!” “Who’s stuck?” “That’s my sister!” “Look, Momma, a lady’s stuck on the slide!”—will be burned in my memory forever.

Somehow, I managed to roll from side to side, lift one butt cheek at a time, and pull, twist, and shimmy out of the tunnel. To make matters worse, when I reappeared beneath the tunnel, the crowd cheered for me. Surely there had been no lower moment in my life.

For whatever reason, the last few feet of slide offered no resistance. Satisfied that they had their mother back, my children scampered off to play, as did my nieces. My sister, still laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe, was both embarrassed for me and entertained by the whole affair.

“That could only happen to you,” she said, tears of laughter streaming down her face. Sputtering and choking, she imitated me. ‘“Did somebody shut the water off?”’

My mouth dropped open, and I pushed her. “I thought they did!”

“It was the shorts,” said the attendant with the bullhorn. “They stick.”

Karen thought that was funny, too. She was still laughing so hard she backed into a chair and nearly fell down, which I thought was pretty darn funny. While it is definitely one of our favorite memories, I would change one thing if I could. I’d put those damn pink shorts on my sister in a heartbeat.

~Helen Polaski

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