Some of my most vivid childhood memories took place at the United Church’s Naramata Centre in Naramata, B.C., where a long waterslide of soapy plastic lay on a grassy slope in the bright sunshine. To eight-year-old eyes, this was a daunting sight. With courage worked up, I took the plunge. There is a photo of me in the moment. On my knees, with fists planted in front, it looks like I’m trying to stop abruptly. Yet I was having the most fun of my life.
I didn’t return for many years — not until last summer when I came back to the centre as an intern. I was glad to be there, but something was missing. I threw myself into my tasks. Guests arrived in a trickle, then a flood, smiling and laughing. A new energy seeped in.
One bright afternoon, it was time for the kids to experience the waterslide. I gathered the tarp, the hose and the soap with excitement. But then disappointment resurfaced. The waterslide, once a behemoth to be conquered, was just a long piece of thin plastic. The hose gave just a small stream. Even the soap seemed less soapy. Nothing was quite the way I remembered.
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Discouraged, I set about to make the best of the day. Holding the hose, I smiled at the first in line for the slide. The little boy was unsure. With urging from those around, he relented. Spectators cheered. Rolling off the end of the slide onto the soggy grass, he grinned.
They moved quickly after that. Some little ones needed encouragement. Most dove in, ready to try to go faster. We laughed at beards made of soap bubbles. We cheered when a new distance record was made.
In that moment, something finally clicked. Through water and soap, it felt like I was passing on the same joy from my own childhood. I remembered that familiar feeling of community. It felt like home.
This story was originally featured in the July/August 2019 edition of Broadview with the title “The magic of summer.” To read more of Broadview’s award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today.