But there she was, urging me to hurry up. To get to the pool. To go down the water slide.
Look at how much has changed in one year.
A year earlier, my heart was broken when she chickened out at the top of the Wilderness Lodge water slide.
But a year can be a lifetime for a six year old. And in the year since she came crying down the stairs of the Wilderness Lodge slide, she'd taken another year of swimming lessons. Jumped off the diving board. And ridden Splash Mountain.
Which is like a water slide in many respects.
Our first afternoon in Disney World, we took the Monorail back to our resort. After a brief rest period, we changed up, slathered up the sunscreen and rode down to the first floor of the Contemporary and walked out to the pool. That alone was worth the price of admission. Coming off the elevator on the first floor and walking out the back doors to the pool. The pool I've walked past several times on my way from the boat launch to dinner at Chef Mickey's. But now it was going to be "our" pool. We were going to swim in the place where we lived. Hat tip: REM.
All I needed now was my Orange Crush.
The pool at the Contemporary Resort, as it was when we were there, was not the most thematically immersive pools. No one would compare it with the Polynesian or the Lodge or Stormalong Bay. On the other hand, the sheer lack of theming meant the pool also had a sheer lack of chunky tourists stuffed into smallish suits. There was no fighting for lounge chairs. No long waits on the water slide, either.
Of the many bad things I read about the Contemporary which turned out to be not-so-bad at all: the lack of shade at the pool. We were at the pool on several days and never did we have a problem finding a shaded lounge chair. There just weren't that many people at the pool.
ZZUBY took a look at the slide and she started to go Alabama's Defense on me, which is to say, wobbly. But I reminded her that she's seen scarier things: by that point, Barack Obama had sewn up the Democratic nomination and looked to be a lock for president. And she'd been on Splash Mountain. We walked up to the top of the slide tower and I went down first so I could catch her. The ride to the pool is fast, curvy and wet. Just the way a water slide should be.
And a good number four. Frankly.
I splashed into the water and immediately swam back to catch ZZUBY. At first she came down sitting up. All proper like. Slow. She slid into the pool gently. Perhaps even gingerly. You should pardon the expression.
She wanted to go again. And again. And again still.
Back to the top we went. Around the third or fourth ride, I explained the basics of Waterslide Olympics to her. It was all about style and speed and splash down. Mrs. Z was holding Baby Z in the water near the slide's exit. She would be the judge.
Only it turned out she wasn't a very good judge at all.
First of all, although Water Slide Olympics is to be judged on the three aforementioned criteria, as agreed to by the Water Slide Federation and the IOC. Mrs. Z was only observing the final leg of the slide and the splash. She was basically awarding points for "the dismount." And no amount of arguing with her would disabuse her of her cockeyed notion that one "dismounts" a water slide. She thought a big splash was worthy of more points. I petitioned her endlessly to recognize that pursuant to the WSF/IOC criteria, a small splash is desired. It takes more skill. Any ol' fatty in a tube can splash into the water and displace it to the lounge chairs. Mrs. Z was undeterred.
So if it was a big splash she wanted, then it was a big splash she got. If you've never competed in Water Slide Olympics, you might be unaware that if you lay on your back and arch your shoulders, you'll get a faster run. There's less friction. You'll slide down the tube faster than Mexican food washed down by Japanese food. But if you don't want water up your nose, you'd be well advised to sit up as you enter the pool. It'll slow you down and you can control your splash better.
And you'll be less likely to get a pool full of pee water up your nose. Nothing worse than that. Except maybe getting embarrassed on national TV by the Utah Utes.
Mrs. Z didn't care about any of that. She wanted a big splash. It was go big or go home, and ZZUB came to play.
So I started coming into the water full force. With great gusto. I wouldn't sit up to slow down my entry. I'd continue on, sliding on my arched back. And only when I hit the pool would I pull my arms from behind my head, lean forward and hit the water with my great guns. Splashing so hard that the spray spread across the pool. That got me a 10.
But then ZZUBY did something I never thought I'd see. She started doing spins. That's right, spins! She came around the last turn sitting up facing backwards and spun around to enter the water face first. Then another time she came down on her belly and spun around, doing a 360 to come into the water sitting up face first. She was insane.
And this wasn't the PORiverside pool where, Gawd forbid a million times you should not slide sitting down feet first. No the lifeguards at the Contemporary didn't seem to care how you came down the slide as long as you came down. ZZUBY was full on out of control and loving every minute of it.
I was laughing myself hoarse watching her come around that last bend in the slide. Never quite sure what position she'd be in when she came into view. And for a little girl, she could make quite a splash.
The judging became completely corrupted at this point. ZZUBY just couldn't earn less than a 10. I was lucky if that hack judge gave me anything higher than a 7.
We spent a lot of time at the Contemporary pool. More time than we spent at any of the other resort pools. Whether it was because ZZUBY was loving the slide or because we were just a Monorail ride away from the fun, I don't know. But we did spend some time there. Swimming, splashing. Sliding for the glory of the United States.
Most of the time, we all went to the pool, but one afternoon, Mrs. Z and Baby Z were napping. Yet ZZUBY and I had no intention of sleeping. So we headed down to the pool without them. But first, I wanted to take some pictures of the Contemporary. I dragged poor ZZUBY all around the place taking shots of things. She was a trooper but she kept asking, "Daddy, when are we going swimming." Poor thing heard, "in a minute, honey," about as often as Sarah Palin abused the RNC credit card on her shopping spree through Neiman Marcus. Allegedly.
On our way to the pool, we took this picture of ourselves in the Mickey Head deal.
And then when we got to the pool itself, we dropped off our stuff and commenced training runs on the water slide. Since there was no corrupt judge at the bottom to award points, we had to content ourselves with sliding for fun. As if that were possible. I mean, can you imagine Michael Phelps swimming for fun?! Barack Obama giving speeches just to hear himself talk? Or Fat Phil Fulmer eating fries without gravy?! Unheard of.
On yet another day, during a lull in the Water Slide Olympics, we were hanging out in the pool, over by the steps. I looked over past my wife at the Contemporary Resort behind her. The Contemporary looms large over the pool. Like Bear Bryant looms over Alabama Football. Or Ronald Reagan over the Republican Party. It's there. In your view. And if you're the kind of guy who has waited a long time to stay there, then you notice it hovering over the pool. And you think it's all kind of cool. You search for words but none come. Sometimes it has to be OK that the best way to describe something is simply that, cool.
I remarked to Mrs. ZZUB how fun the time was. How restful. I wasn't worried about anything. Not cramping up with anxiety. Not fearful or stressed. Just relaxed. Genuinely relaxed. And amazed. Still. That this place I couldn't wait to stay at was every bit as fantastic as I hoped it would be. Mrs. Z and I talked around some things. You see, we are not planning to return to Disney World in 2009. There are some other things we want to do. But after a vigorous battle on the water slide, and now soaking in the pool, feeling genuine relaxation, I wondered aloud whether the "other things" couldn't wait. Why would we not come back to this place we love?
Mrs. Z pointed out that Baby ZZUB would only be free for one more year. In other words, she was giving me reasons why we should come back in 2009.
I suppose if the daughter of a former president with no public policy or political experience, having not even voted for the seat she wants to hold, can expect to be a United States Senator, Mrs. Z can try to talk me into going to Disney World. In other words: everything isn't completely mad.
It's not like suddenly the bane of the so-called radical right is now widely considered to be a centrist. Whatever the heck that is.
The question of where we'll vacation in 2009 hasn't been answered yet, by the way. Officially, we're not returning to Disney World this year. But since I also wasn't planning to write another trip report . . . well, you know. In our house, the official and correct way to reference a 2009 trip is with the following disclaimer, "We're not planning to go back to Disney World this year, but if we do . . . ." As in, "We're not planning to go to Disney this year, but if we do, I think we're going to stay at the Contemporary again."
ZZUBY said to me on Friday, "Daddy, I know we're not going to Disney World this year, but if we did, I think I know which water park I want to go to." To which I responded, "We're NOT going to Disney World this year, but if we did, which we're not, which one do you want to go to?"
This is a story of how my little girl conquered her fear of the water, and indeed, the water slide, and went on to win her first Gold Medal in the Water Slide Olympics. I was immensely proud of her, because not giving into fear is important in our house. But what surprised me yet again, was how much fun my daughter is to be with. What a good sense of humor she has.
No one tells you to expect that from your kids. Which in a way is a good thing. Because it's such a pleasant surprise. To have your expectations exceeded.