The decision to travel to an amusement park with small children is best made on the spur of the moment, much like when one jumps off a cliff. If you stand on the edge for too long, you’ll be consumed by second thoughts, which tell you that, should you decide to take a chance and plummet, you’ll surely die – or at least post an epic belly flop. It’s better to hold your nose and just take the plunge.
I can say, with some pride, that last Thursday I announced my intention of taking the G.P. and the small children to Schlitterbahn after having barely thought about it at all. The kids were excited about a day at a water park, and Dad had been talking for months about how he wanted to float the Lazy River. We got the necessary coolers/backpacks/water toys loaded up and coated the children in a layer of sunscreen so thick we could have shot them into space without risk of atmospheric immolation. Away we went, returning only home once because Avery “forgot to poop.”
We arrived at the park and checked in easily. I got lost trying to find the cabanas, and walked my poor trudging family the long way around, with some complaint from the troops.
“How far is it, Auntie,” whined Jojo. “It takes forever to get there!”
“Yeah,” offered the mutinous G.P. “It seems like there might be a shorter way.”
There was, but the path was designated by an arrow pointing directly up into the stratosphere. I ignored it and veered in a direction which seemed like it didn’t require a helicopter. Like many of my decisions, this one was regrettable.
Eventually, we arrived at Beach Access 10. The G.P. and the boys couldn’t wait, and took off down the Lazy River. I reclined on a lounge chair with my book and a bottle of water.
Thirty minutes later, Jovanni appeared.
“Where are Grandpa and Avery?” I asked. They were supposed to all stay together.
“I don’t know. I guess they went a different way,” Jojo yelled, drifting away on his tube.
After another half an hour, my nephew reappeared like a clockwork canary.
“Jojo! Did you see Grandpa and Avery?” I asked, chasing him through the shallows with the sunscreen.
“Nope!” He laughed, happily plunging down the river, a streak of white lingering, skunk-like on his back.
“FIND YOUR GRANDFATHER!” I screamed.
I inherited my directional impairment from my father. It was entirely possible that Dad and Avery could wind up floating the Lazy River for eternity, doomed to pass close to Beach Access 10, but never reach it, like pitiful characters from Dante’s Inferno.
Finally, I saw my soaked and bedraggled father porting his inner tube across from an adjoining pool, while Avery bounced alongside in his little red life jacket.
“GRANDPA GOT US LOST, AB! We went around and around and around!” Avery hollered, wriggling like a minnow as I valiantly tried to baste him with sun goop.
Avery must have betrayed Dad’s great secret, because the G.P. glared at the oblivious child before saying defensively, “You could spend years just going in circles on that damn thing.”
“You could,” I replied, making an ill-fated grab for Avery and face planting in the shallows. I emerged, spluttering, “Jojo’s been back twice.” Dad huffed off toward the cooler and grabbed a bottle of water.
“Let’s go again, Ab!” Avery said, happily climbing into a two-man tube, ready to set sail.
“You take him,” said the G.P. “I need little break.”
At that instant, Jovanni shot out of the access canal like an otter covered in Crisco, just in time to join us. We went around and back in record time, thanks to Jovanni’s navigational skills. I gave the kids some snacks and chased them with the sunscreen. I adopted a linebacker’s approach, but small targets are difficult to tackle. The kids began begging for a ride on the roller coaster.
Dad decided that we all ought to go. We covered up all our material possessions with towels – invisibility cloaks as far as thieves and coolers are concerned — and headed up the hill. Avery was scared to ride the roller coaster until Jovanni called him chicken. Evidently, being called a fluffy murder fowl makes one very, very brave.
There was no line when we arrived, but there was a sign with a cartoon dog that said you must be “this tall to ride.” Avery put his back against the ruler and peeped over his shoulder. He wasn’t even tall enough to ride with an adult, unless you counted his frothy mop of curls, which they didn’t (I asked). Jojo was tall enough to go all by himself.
Avery collapsed in a puddle of disappointment beside the ropes that surrounded the line. There are few things in life worse than screwing up your courage and then having a cartoon bloodhound tell you that you’re too short. Jovanni didn’t help matters by running around crowing that he was “finally getting tall enough.” Tears began to pour down Avery’s round little cheeks.
Then the power went out.
The great blue screws that drove the torrents of water ground to a halt. The call of, “Power’s out!’ echoed mournfully across the firmament, and folks began the slow march to the exits – dragging disappointed children and still-full coolers along behind them.
“Avery!” I exclaimed, “Look! No one gets to ride!” A smile crept across his face, and happily bounced up and took my hand.
“Is it broken?” he whispered, in total awe. I’m sure that he had wished very hard that no one else (especially Jovanni) could go on the ride either, and was afraid he’d destroyed Schlitterbahn with his mind.
“No, Avox. There just isn’t any power right now.”
“Can we come back when there is?” he begged.
“We sure can,” I replied, swiping at sunscreen streaked across his nose.
“That’s GREAT!” he whooped, dancing away.
We got our stuff and joined the exodus. The G.P. looked over at me, as I Sherpa-like drug the cooler and all the towels and beach accessories back to the car, keeping a watchful eye on the small children.
“That’s a hell of sunburn you’ve got there,” he said.
My chest and shoulders looked like the unfortunate result of crossbreeding an iguana with a beefsteak tomato. I put sunscreen on everyone — except myself. The children thought this was very funny, and so our outing ended in laughter … and aloe vera.