Saturday, June 04, 2005

Smaller Than You Remember? Part 2

Part one can be found [here].
Over and over I hear people talking about the old days. It happens quite a bit, remembrance of glory days. This blog proves my guilt in the retelling of old tales, sharing moments of the past. The name of this site, Sheepshead & Other Stories, invokes images of the summer of 2001 to my mind. That year had been one of great change for me, one where my social circle changed and I was no longer the pool hall junkie. It was the year where the Sheepsheadians formed and I think back on that summer as glory days.

Simply put, the Sheepsheadians are employees of N.A.B.A.B.N.A. that worked the same shift and became accustomed to playing cards together after work every night until the sun rose. Our namesake is derived directly from the German-rooted card game that gave us such catch phrases as, “Shearing our Vision since 2001,” and “Life is like a game of Sheepshead, you never know who your partner is going to be.*” Yet our group was, and still is in a different capacity, so much more. We were people who bonded quickly and grew to love each other as family.

In the early days of our group, the core members were DM, Keem, Adam, and myself. There have been additions and subtractions since the formation, but most of the core group is still close. Matt has become a constant member to our group and as hard as it is to say sometimes, Adam is no longer someone I would consider a member. We do not get together every night to play cards anymore, in fact Keem, DM, and I have not even played one or two hands more than three times in the past few months. But there are still stories of the old days and new stories being formed.

The story I have been trying to tell (and straying from the topic quite a bit, sorry, bear with me, it’s how I write) is the story of the first road trip our group took.

It only took one off-handed comment about showing Adam my first house. Because of that one little comment, I found myself loading my car with the Sheepsheadians on a Sunday morning and driving south towards a small town in Iowa.

The drive itself was a bit uneventful. We listened to music and talked and laughed and DM fell asleep in the backseat, as usual. Our jokes about the convenience stores were lame and we still giggled each time we saw the signs for the “Kum & Go.” Our cameras were out and pictures were taken of our time in Waterloo.

We stopped at my aunt’s house and visited for a little bit. The conversation was great and in no way was this “The Trip of a Lifetime,” but it was special. I can’t help but smile when I think of the four of us driving around downtown Waterloo looking for the hotel and finally realizing that the tallest building in town was the Holiday Inn.

The purpose of the trip of course was to show my friends the house I lived in for the first five years of my life. It was an excuse to get out and have a bit of fun and it worked. Sometimes I think we should just hop in a car, drive for four hours and find a place to explore. Then I remember that we all have different schedules now and the chances of just getting away for a day have decreased. It takes so much more planning now to do something as impulsive for us in this day and age and I still want to do it.

The night of our road trip was spent playing Sheepshead in our hotel room. We all drank back then and did have some spirits during our never-ending game of cards, sitting around in our joined rooms in our pajamas. The score was kept but never remembered in the end. Who needs to remember the score when you can remember the feeling of friendship?

Before we went to the hotel, we did visit my childhood home. The neighborhood was still as small as I remembered. I take that back. The neighborhood had not grown over time and it was still quaint and cute, but it seemed a bit smaller than I did remember. My perspectives had changed and three blocks no longer seemed like the world to me. The feeling of safety and security was still there and as I drove across the train tracks my mom used to speed over, I had a sense of nostalgia.

The showing of my old home to my friends was quick. A picture was taken and we moved on. Tours were not every hour on the hour and it no longer is a place I can just walk up and enter. I did pause as I looked at the house that I played so many games and learned in, but felt glad that it was just a piece of my history. After we saw the house, we continued down the street towards the park.

What would be a road trip to a childhood home without visiting the ghosts that haunt one’s memories? It was time to check out the BIG SLIDE again and laugh at myself for my silly fear.

The layout of the park had changed over the twenty years, but the monster still remained, reaching for the sky. I was able to feel better about my fear once I saw it towering there. That slide is HUGE!

Most parks I have visited in my life that have slides have child appropriate slides. I would say most do not tower too much over 6 or 7 feet tall. Parents do not fear their children climbing to the top and falling on the way up. The ladders are usually slanted and the mom or dad can usually still have a hand on the kid’s back as they make their way up the steps. I am not overly tall, only 5 foot 4 (without my boots), but reaching up I can touch something 7 feet tall. The top of the BIG SLIDE was still high above my stretched fingertips.

What should four friends do when they have no obligations to be anywhere and are just out to have fun, finding themselves in a park for five-year-olds? Play, of course! That is just what we did. We each took turns swinging and climbing the stairs to the top of the slide. I have a picture in one of my scrapbooks of DM sliding down arms out and still remember her exclaiming, “Whee!”

Adam had us all laughing as he hung upside down on these rings attached to the swing set. We took turns sitting on the rocking horses and kicking sand off of our shoes. Comments were made continually about how large the slide was. Even as fully grown adults still clinging to our youth, we all felt the slide was a bit large. Looking through the pictures, I would estimate it is only about 10 to 11 feet tall, but its stairs are still a bit intimidating. Instead of a gentle slope, the angle is perpendicular to the ground and the gaps between steps take a bit of effort.

Facing my childhood irrational fear, I climbed to the top of the slide. My perspectives in life have changed and I still found the climb to be scary. The view from the top was enjoyed a bit more at this stage of my life but I still cringe when I think of the climb and the forcing of myself to make the trek.

Thinking back to that day trip to Iowa, I smile. I remember the sunset as we left the park that turned the sky a brilliant pink. I have a picture of the four of us, taken with the use of a timer, standing together each grinning from ear to ear. If there is a time of my life I miss, I do miss the glory days of the Sheepsheadians. I miss the time when we could all get together every day and just laugh. It was a great trip and a great time of my life.

And the slide, as I mentioned, was as large as I remembered. My perspectives may have changed a bit, but that stayed the same. The fear of it being smaller than I remembered was subsided and replaced with the fear of climbing to the top again, but I do have a fond memory of what it took to make it to the top. My friends were beside me when I faced my hidden fear and that means the world to me.


*In four-player Sheepshead, your partner changes each hand based on who is holding the appropriate queens. This is one of the main reasons our group loves to play this game.