“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” – anonymous
One of the things that I enjoy most about the Captain Hammer Project are the adventures that I get to take my new body on. A body that I will remind you is still pretty far from anyone’s definition of “fit” but considering where I’ve been in the past is a huge improvement.
Today’s story isn’t all that far removed from those, but it does better qualify for the term “adventure.”
St. Louis is a pretty rad place to live. We are the birthplace and headquarters for Zombie Squad; we have amazing attractions like City Museum, the St. Louis Zoo is free to the public as are the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Science Center. St. Louis is home to the Gatekeepers, one of the single best men’s roller derby organizations in the U.S., which makes it high in the runnings for strongest in the world. St. Louis style pizza is scientifically proven to be the best style of pizza, even though a number of St. Louis pizza restaurants get it very very wrong. We’re home to Washington University. St. Louis kinda rocks.
One of the many many things to do in St. Louis is a children’s museum called The Magic House. It’s an amazing place for kids, and not a terrible place for adults. Three floors and a basement full of things for kids to climb around on, build and learn about. There’s a curly slide that goes from the top floor to the main floor. If you have kids and you’re in town, you should really check it out.
The Magic House also has seasonal attractions that you can check out. The current exhibition has a Lewis and Clark expedition theme. I took my daughter there a short while back. They had a bunch of tent displays, a giant canoe and things for the kids to play around with. She started playing with other kids, while I started briskly pacing laps around the room. Hey, you don’t get in better shape without taking advantage of opportunities to move.
The other kids move on, and my daughter wants to go into the obstacle course that I guess is a kid’s interpretation of the hazards the explorers faced. Or something. So off we go down the hallway, around the corner to where we come up to an opening in the floor about a yard wide, with a rope hanging from the ceiling. My daughter does her Indiana Jones thing, I step across the gorge, because if I grab a rope attached to the ceiling, I will bring the entire building down. Down around another corner there are a series of stump/platform things. She steps up onto one and makes her way across. This one I am feeling relatively safe on, and follow suit. We continue winding around the hallways when we come to a darkened crawl space. She dives in immediately and disappears. Normally, these things have an alternate passage, a regular doorway, for parents to go through and meet the kids on the other side.
There was no such door.
I had a moment of confusion at the lack of a secondary method of progress. This was quickly followed by a moment of panic as I considered the dark void of the crawl space. There was no way out save the way we came in, which led to a feeling of shame. If I were smaller, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. I would be the dad out on the playground with his kid rather than the one watching from the sidelines.
I couldn’t call her back. I just couldn’t. I had no idea how much longer the “expedition” was, but I knew that I couldn’t face the disappointment of bringing her back the other way…so I got down and crawled in.
Shockingly, there wasn’t a lot of room in there. Normal people probably wouldn’t have had a problem navigating the passage. Being 6′ 6″, heavyset and of wide framework doesn’t exactly qualify me as normal, but there was enough room for me to wiggle my way through. The crawl space made one of those squiggle Tetris shapes and after getting around a corner or two, I saw light ahead. I called out to my daughter telling her not to move on without me. I rounded the corner to the light source…
..which was coming from the other end of a tunnel slide.
Forget what I said before. I should have told her to come back before I got in. She would have been disappointed, but she would have understood. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I’d have taken her to a playground, out for ice cream, and bought her a toy. It would have been such a good day she would never remember this failure.
There were two problems with this line of thought. First, my daughter has a mind like the proverbial steel trap. There was absolutely zero chance she was going to not remember this. Second, this would require me going backwards through the dark Tetris tunnel, and what happens if someone else is trying to come in?
All I could think about was the episode of The Simpsons where Homer plugs up the water slide, and they had to remove the piece he was in with a crane. My daughter’s face peeked up the slide and told me to come on.
I started thinking about emptying my pockets into the slide, maybe even taking off some clothes. How I expected to do that in the tight confines of the crawl space didn’t register, nor did the idea that being in any stage of undress should rescue be necessary would make things so much worse.
At this point, the fear of someone else coming along to witness this comedy of errors overrode the fear of getting stuck, so I shimmied up to the slide and somehow managed to contort myself to where I could enter feet first. I shuffled myself along by my heels, pulling myself to my destiny.
Which as it turns out was at the bottom of the slide. Now I’m not going to say that it wasn’t a close fit, but at no point was I in danger of being trapped. I pulled myself all the way out that way, all the way onto the floor, because there was no way I could sit up and have my head clear the tunnel.
I stood up and was ready to move on, more than a bit bewildered at what just happened. We went down the next hallway and there was another “obstacle”, a low height clearance with a wooden bridge over a tank of water. By “bridge,” I mean “ladder you have to crawl across,” and by “ladder you have to crawl across” I mean “thing that looks like it’s made of balsa wood, staples, spit and wire, wiggles when I touch it and is most certainly a deathtrap.”
She’s off and crawls across with no problem. I start thinking about crawling back up the slide. My newfound courage is evaporating quickly, so I crawl out onto the fickle structure, my mind racing with every shoddy bridge collapse scene from every movie that had one, and a few that didn’t. I scurry as fast as someone of my size can scurry.
What next? This has been a fat dad nightmare, but I’ve come out on top of all challenges. We round the next corner, and it’s the exit. A tiny part of me was disappointed, but for the most part, I was amazed that the whole thing was resolved without catastrophe.
This was kind of a big deal. I have a lot of trouble shaking the mentality that I cannot do things because of my size. Every one of the triumphs I’ve written about didn’t matter past the moment of triumph. I sat in that movie theater seat and at a different theater had a moment of “this ain’t gonna work, fatty” panic. (spoiler alert: it worked fine). I fit in the tiny Honda Civic, and when a friend offered to give me a lift to my car (it was bitterly cold and I was parked a few blocks away) I almost turned it down out of fear that I would either not fit or that I would somehow destroy her car. I fit into the 2XL shirts, wear the 2 I have happily…but don’t find myself looking for new ones. I hope that eventually I can make these worries vanish.
For right now, I’m still winning every footrace with my daughter. She tries to race me upstairs, and I dust her after giving her a full flight head start. I can keep up with her youthful energy. Staying the course I am on ensures that I will be able to continue to do as as she grows. This is still probably a misuse of the term adventure, but I’m headed to a place where it will mean something. I’ll get there one step at a time.