Meet Ariellabelle. Ariellabelle has been working at Charleston Apparel since the spring of 2014, when our owner spotted her bathing in the Waterfront Park fountain at 3:45 in the morning. She claimed that she was a mermaid, and we have no reason to doubt her. In fact, she said that she left her kingdom under the sea for a chance to sell low-priced American clothing and to try Jestine's famous fried chicken and sweet tea. Apparently, even the mer-people read Frodo's Travel Guide, too. Ariellabelle is modeling the very same clothes that we found her in — a fetching blue tank and red short-shorts combo, complete with the most heartbreaking black-and-white socks, but she still hasn't quite gotten used to standing on her own two legs. Charleston Apparel's leading physical therapist believes the trampoline will help give her the strength to stand. In the meantime, she's studying for the LSAT while teaching under-privileged youth how to swim.
The day my daughter Zoe and I went to Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park in Mt. Pleasant, was a busy one. Zoe is six, and that Wednesday morning was her last day of kindergarten.
So it was with the strains of "School's Out for the Summer" floating through my head that we left for our bounce date. When we saw the giant warehouse-like building, Zoe squealed with excitement. And I'll admit it, inside, I was squealing a little too. Because trampolines! Bouncing! Fun! What more could a couple of girls want?
By the time we reached the front doors, we were both already bouncing back and forth on our toes ... at least until we hit the front room. It was full and busy and intimidating, and there were a lot of steps to take before we could jump.
First we had to pick up our tickets. The line to buy them was short (tip: buy your tickets online ahead of time to guarantee your jump time), but there was some confusion as I tried to figure out where to sign a waiver. Then we had to get our neon-orange Sky socks — you can't jump in tennis shoes after all. Then we had to stash my purse in a locker. All of this was done while wading through crowds of children, their parents looking on with a deer-in-headlights look.
Zoe and I persevered, finally reaching our first destination: the giant foam pit.
I should probably add here that I'm a germophobe. I worry about stomach bugs and strep throat. I worry, too, about head lice (shudder, gasp), and as Zoe and I approached the foam pit, I got nervous. What if there were creepy crawlies down there in the pit?
I later asked Sky Zone co-owner Brad Sullivan about the cleaning procedures at Sky Zone. "The foam pit is emptied monthly," he said. "It takes a crew of eight people six hours or more to pull out each piece of foam, and clean up any debris they find. Of course, they all hope to find money at the bottom. Mostly they just find Sky socks."
Everything else is wiped down nightly — the trampolines, the pads, everything — with a hospital grade disinfectant. "I have to say, one of the things I've been surprised by is how many of our customers comment on how clean we are," Sullivan adds.
Honestly, I agree. With just a bit of trepidation, Zoe and I took our place at the end of the trampolines leading up to it. At the same time, we leaped as high as we could, out into the foam.
Or, I should say, Zoe leaped high. I was more awkward, more cumbersome. I flipped, more by accident than by intent, and landed face-down in the foam, my legs plunging deeper than I'd expected. I lifted my head, searching in that initial moment of disorientation for my child. Where was she? Had she landed okay? And then I heard her laugh. I saw her emerge, a body part at a time, from the foam. And suddenly I was laughing, too. "Let's do it again, Mom!" she shouted.
She didn't need to ask me twice.
Our next stop was the main trampoline room, which is like something out of a sci-fi flick. The floor's cut into dozens of squares, with each trampoline partitioned off by a network of mats. Each jumper has their own space. The walls themselves have been turned into slanting trampolines. At Sky Zone, you can literally bounce off the walls. And that's exactly what Zoe and I did.
Or rather, that's what Zoe did. She's little, short, and only fifty pounds. Her body easily navigated the turns needed to bounce up, up, up, and then flip, landing gracefully back on the ground.
Me? I'm not that coordinated. Every time I tried to bounce off the wall, I landed on my knee, my wrist, my head. I gave up on that quickly and focused on jumping. It was fabulous.
While Zoe and I bounced together, our mother-daughter relationship shifted into best-buddy mode. We giggled. We shrieked. We tried new tricks, and sometimes succeeded. We never, ever stopped smiling.
Zoe tried all the trampolines at Sky Zone. She played dodge ball. She tried to slam-dunk a basketball and succeeded in a couple of lay-ups. I watched, my cheeks sore from smiling.
By the end of the hour, I'd sweat as much as I do on a six-mile run. I was tired. My legs were rubbery in a fresh-off-the-boat way. The next day I'd be sore in body parts I didn't know I had, but that was fine because Zoe and I were still laughing. She hugged me tight around the waist as we headed for the lockers. "That was the best thing ever!" she exclaimed.
Seconds later, a dad staggered up to me. His shirt was soaked, his hair was a stringy, and across his face was a giant smile. "That's the most fun I've ever had," he said, sucking in a huge gulp of air. "I'm coming back next week with my buddies."
On our way out, I heard similar statements from similar adults as we ushered our exhausted, sweaty children towards our cars. We, the jumping parents, shared a secret, knowing look. The thing is, to have fun at Sky Zone, children and grown-ups alike, you need to jump. Go for it. You won't regret it.
Sullivan couldn't agree more. "Sky Zone isn't just for kids. It's active fun that's for everyone. If you can walk, you can bounce. You only need to try it once to see."
Brick by Brick
616 Long Point Road, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 971-9939, buildbrickbybrick.com
25 Ann St., Downtown
(843) 853-8962, explorecml.org
Creative Spark Center for the Arts
757 Long Point Road, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 881-3780, creativespark.org
Gymboree Play and Music Center
1149 Oakland Market Road, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 881-0996, gymboreeclasses.com
Kids Play Garden
320 West Coleman Blvd., Mt Pleasant
(843) 606-2716, kidsplaygarden.com
4952 Centre Pointe Dr., North Charleston
(843) 202-1999, monkeyjoes.com
My Gym of Charleston
1113 Market Center Blvd., Mt. Pleasant
(843) 654-4541, mygym.com
100 Aquarium Wharf, Downtown
(843) 720-1990, scaquarium.org