On a recent trip to New Braunfels, TX, The Hubster and I spent a lazy afternoon strolling around town, enjoying the antique shops and art galleries we usually skip when visiting the Hill Country with the kids. At twilight, we picked up our daughter and her two friends from Schlitterbahn and went to Prince Solms Park to check it out for some tubing the next day. Everyone else went in search of a sno-cone to cool off but I walked down to the place Mom & Dad used to take my sister and me when we were little. I’ve not been there since about ’80 or ’81. (I remember because Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” was pouring out of everyone’s radio and I HATED that song.) Anyway…this evening, due to some unseasonable rain, there wasn’t a soul there but me.
It looks very different now but I was immediately transported right back to the last time I’d been there. I was at that age where I was thrilled to be on a vacation but pissed off because I didn’t have friends there to hang out with. Hundreds of people filled the entire area but it didn’t seem crowded at all. Just…fun. My bikini was covered with an Andy Gibb t-shirt because my mom was never cool with revealing clothing, despite the fact that I had nothing to reveal back then. As it turns out, I remember jumping off the wall into the chute behind a bunch of much older teenagers and being thankful that Andy Gibb was covering my not-yet-blooming buds because I got twisted in the current several times. It was thrilling to keep up with the big kids so I quietly wiped the blood from my scraped legs and kept trying to get my jump just right. The trick was to leap into the water quickly enough to grab the person’s ankles in front of you to make a chain. Mom told me not to. Dad told her to let me because, “She’ll figure it out or drown. Either way, she’ll learn.”
The grassy bank is still there but it’s fenced off a bit. Back in the day, Mom would spread out a big quilt, spray the perimeter with OFF, and sit there next to the cooler. She’d smoke and read her book while we played, stopping to make us a pimento cheese or egg salad sandwich when we got hungry. We’d chug-a-lug RC Cola and let her put zinc oxide on us. (Remember when there was only ONE kind of sunscreen?) Dad, of course, was up on the wall with all the teenagers, jumping and showing off his diving prowess. My sister would play near the edge with a friend she’d made. (There were never strangers in my sister’s world. Still aren’t.) I’d get her to come with me to deeper water and we’d jump off our tubes hollering, “A ONE! A TWO! A CHICKA BOOM A ROO!” or she’d yell, “Throw me, Lis! Throw me!” So, I would.
I’m so glad I walked down there alone so no one could see me crying and laughing at the same time. I’ve been talking about this place for years but never sought it or asked about it in all the years I’ve been back to this area. We come down here all the time but never to the City Chute.
When I walked back up to the park with the others, the Hubster looked at me and said, “Are you okay?”
I replied, “I found it.”