If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Tufts, between re-watching Charlie Brown holiday specials, trick-or-treating at Gifford House, and reverting to complete romantic ineptitude, it’s that college kids love reliving childhood experiences. There’s something about acting like a little kid again that makes the foreign environment of a faraway place seem a little more like home. Perhaps WMFO’s “Bouncy Castles” was born out of this mindset.
But in the period between this past Saturday and the most recent time I had been on a bouncy castle, a lot had changed. For instance, if I wait a few weeks, I can get some nylon-string-colored hair to sheepishly crawl from my face. Additionally, I’m not quite the limber young dynamo I once was, running off a seemingly inexhaustible energy source powered by Capri-Suns and Lunchables, immune to any possible injury. In fact, I’m relatively laconic, sheepish in both physical and mental respects.
Nonetheless, I made the trek to the Academic Quad for “Bouncy Castles” and was greeted by roughly what I was told to expect. A bouncy castle, a bouncy obstacle course race thing, some music, and three tables arranged in a triangle with maybe twelve boxes of plain pizza. Like anyone would be, I was eager to get my bounce on and (after taking off my shoes, of course) I hopped right into the castle and bounced for the ten minutes I could bounce before getting kind of tired and also a little bit hungry. I got a slice of ‘za, ignoring the fact that the further bouncing I intended to do would likely not aid my digestion.
After eating my first of what would be three slices of pizza, I made my way through the obstacle course and did relatively well against my opponent save for getting caught in the net at the end which frankly I think is totally unfair. The obstacle course was pretty fun and relatively challenging, but I had just the slightest inkling that perhaps the obstacles would be a bit more difficult for a smaller variety of person, namely: children. That being said, the course became more of a race and battle of the wits (should you go over or through the three cylinders at the end?) than one of endurance and physical strength. That’s fine, I’m known more for my brains than my brawn anyway. The fact that I lost every race that I ran was likely a statistical anomaly or else foul play on the part of my opponents.
Two and three slices of pizza into the event, the bouncing was starting to get to me. Each bounce sent the half-digested food careening around my stomach, sloshing this way and that. But I wasn’t going to let the threat (or reality) of gastrointestinal discomfort stop me from enjoying some bouncy fun. I bounced, I played bouncy castle games, I played with beach balls in the bouncy castle, I even sat in the bouncy castle with my legs crossed while other people bounced around me.
While a young child and his alumnus father were trying to get into the at-the-time unoccupied castle and Gucci Mane was singing from the stereo “I like them Georgia peaches but you look more like a lemon / These sour apple bitter bitches I’m not fucking with ’em,” I realized that perhaps some aspects of the event may have been ill-conceived. There were a shocking amount of children on campus on Saturday and each one had to come to terms with the fact that this was not a children’s event: your child risked colliding with a full-sized college student at high velocity or else being subjected to the depraved lyrics of the ASAP Ferg song that the police had to ask our DJ to turn off. So I felt somewhat sad watching that same father put his kid’s shoes back on before they had even stepped foot into the castle—he must have realized his mistake—but also not that bad because I was having a lot of fun and listening to “Some Type of Way” (“Bouncy castles make me feel some type of way”) while bouncing with friends is pretty funny.
So perhaps these nostalgic reversions to the safety of childhood memories are always tainted by the irreversible loss of innocence that’s likely hit you by the time you arrive at Tufts, or the latest when you go to your first Fall Ball. The unfortunate reality of the situation, though, was that the joke was on us. Some say youth is wasted on the young, but the truth is that the young are the only ones with the energy to survive the sheer physical strain of childhood fun. As I learned playing outside during the massive snowstorm last winter, just because you’re having fun horsing around, that doesn’t mean that you can’t sustain real injuries. I’m more than a little bit sore even today, after ample time to rest and heal. My feet are sore, my arms are sore, my shoulders are sore, my butt is sore. In short, I’m all bounced out. The physical injuries combined with the harsh realization that this kind of carefree youthful activity is a thing of the past comes as a harsh reality check, but I’m fully prepared to ignore it and get black and blue again at next year’s event.