Wagons & Squirt Guns

It began something like this: My friend said "I invited a bunch of the other kids from class too! We're having pizza and we might also have a water gun fight, we really want you to come!" This was the age when talking on a cord-phone with a springy wire with your friends was the "in" thing to do. This was back in the day when "hanging-up the phone" required more than just pressing the "end" button.

We were old enough to be left alone to our own devices in the neighborhood, but still young enough to require parental play-date permission.

My permission was granted and my mother dropped me off at my friend's house later that afternoon. This was a friend's house I had already been to hundreds of times before. In other words, my parents felt comfortable leaving me on her living room floor and expected that I would be waiting in the same spot later on that night.
In a matter of seconds a group of my buddies circled around on the floor with me. Looking back at it now, I think their excitement was in part because another one of their trouble-making pals was involved, but also because I was not in my wheelchair. I was in a different state during playdates, one that may have appeared to look more accessible to my able-bodied friends. By this point in our friendship my friends knew that I crawled around, or used my walker that my dad had left on the front porch of her house.

"Some of the boys are upstairs playing video games. Do you want us to tell them to come down? Or do you want us to bring you up?" Growing-up with an older brother meant that I rarely got a turn on the nintendo, it didn't take me long to choose to latter option. My friend dashed around the house probably looking for her mom to bring me up the stairs. Instead,
"...this is my laundry hamper. It has freshly clean underwear in it, I checked. Can you climb in here and then we'll carry you up in it?" I probably nodded, probably also threw in something about how I always climbed into laundry hampers at home. And in I went, then up I went.

Hours after Sonic had raced around collecting coins, our stomachs gave a collective grumble. Back in the hamper I went, and down the stairs we trooped. I crawled into the kitchen, under the dining room table, and climbed up onto the chair - stuffing my face with cheese and pepperoni, swapping gossip and summer plans.
At some point someone got bored, and our 12 year-old selves began to scheme and then the conversation probably went something like this:
"Let's have a water gun fight!" 
"Do we have enough squirt guns for everyone?"
"I'll run home and get mine, and steal my brothers."
"Let's call up some more people and see if they can come over."
"We can all meet-up at the park, by the baseball field." 
"We'll start here, in the driveway. I'll go turn the hose on and fill-up some balloons."

The same friend who had rigged up the hamper idea, now turned to look at me:
"I think I have my old red wagon in the garage. I'll go look for it. But we can put you in that and then you can come with us to the park! We can even put the water balloons in with you." 
She threw a beach towel down on the bottom, I climbed into the red wagon and there was still enough space behind me to stack half a dozen water balloons. Someone had handed me a SuperSoaker and off we went, behind her house, through the wooded path, and towards the park - I bumped along and remember telling her that she was smart to have thought of the beach towel.

I don't remember much from my summer as a 12 year-old, but I remember that day. It was great. Everything about it was wonderful from the creepy daddy long legs that I killed in the wagon, to all those water balloons I got to hurl, to the boy who said "no, I don't shoot at girls", and especially the look on my mother's face when she came to pick me up.
My nike shorts, t-shirt, socks, and puma sneakers were drenched. But I sat on the same spot on the living room carpet, smiling up at her with my arms stuck out - sad to go home, and I knew in my head: this is one of those days that your parents won't ever find out about. This is one of those days that you can leave to their own worst nightmare. Today's the day when you figured things out and they don't need to know how it was done, they just need to know that I'm safe and happy. 

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