This essay originally aired on KOSU, an NPR station that broadcasts in OKC and Tulsa.
My sister, who was born during the Space Age, told me a story one time about the Rocket Slide at La Puente Park in Southern California. The oldest of four kids, my dad took her there one time to play, and she never stopped wanting to go back.
Months or maybe years passed between visits and when she finally returned she was too tall to crouch down and fit inside the opening.
Her legs, too long to slide down the mystic moon or dance on Saturn’s rings.
She said if there was a day in her life that she could pinpoint as the day she grew up, that would be the day.
As a mother of three children, I carry this story with me to remind me that in just one summer a child can grow too tall to fit under the kitchen cabinets; too big to fit in the baby swing; too old to play with Fisher Price’s Little People; too cool to swim in a blow up pool.
And, so springs from my sister’s disappointment a fountain of joy . Not one tear is wasted.
Like the water that twists and sprays, gurgles and mists from the new Children’s Fountain in Oklahoma City, every droplet inspires a celebration of childhood.
Dubbed Thunder Fountain, it is part of the newly renovated Myriad Gardens. It is not like anything I have ever seen. Standing 20 feet tall it’s like a gigantic iridescent caterpillar or maybe a canoe on stilts of yellow grass and blue gusts of wind or rolling waves. My husband says it looks like four trout in a mountain stream
It is the invention of Fluidity, a company based in Los Angeles that specializes in water design. It is a monsoon-size memory maker for children who live or visit Oklahoma City. According to its designer, Jim Garland, it is the only fountain like it in the world.
Working in conjunction with the Office of Jim Burnett in Solana Beach, California, it’s intended to provide children with a magical experience as if they were tiny little ladybugs visiting a garden. An abstract thing it is a fountain that is so artful it jockeys hard to be first and foremost a work of public art.
It features thousands of high quality ceramic tiles and one-of-a-kind iridescent steel shingles uniquely melded by a Michigander. Depending on how the trees and clouds filter the light they swoon between shades of green, blue purple and orange. It’s designed to reach up and participate with the landscape of Oklahoma clouds and sunsets.
Above all it invites the participation of children who patiently await the water cycle. The fountain makes thunder and lightning. Rain falls out of the sky and floods the plains. The Indian blankets grow out of the ground and then it mists.
Water going up to the sky.
The cycle is complete, only to repeat itself over and over again.