Be careful what you wish for. After a summer that's been spent on the soggy side, this past week in New England has been hazy like crazy, and it's not doing much good for anyone's tempers, either.
Case in point: Saturday afternoon. After helping Annie move into her new digs, Corb and I took the kidlets to New Hampshire, for our annual pilgrimage to Canobie Lake. We arrived at around three in the afternoon, and plunked down our shekels to gain admittance into the park.
But...well, I don't know. Usually when we arrive, there's the thrill of the day before us. It's almost a giddy feeling. Rides, greasy food, games.
This time, though, things felt different.
Maybe it was because it was so hot outside that it felt like the inside of an E-Z bake oven. Maybe it was all the walking we had done the day before, and the moving in the morning.
But even more, I think, it was the kids. Ashes was in a grouchy mood, because her friend Michaela had bailed on going. As a result, every response out of her mouth was just all shades of blech and apathy, like vomit spewing out of Linda Blair's mouth.
And Theo was plain Mr. Sarcasmo, disagreeing with everything I said. No, seriously. EVERYTHING.
I even tested him, at one point. "Isn't the sky blue?" I asked, innocently.
"It's not blue," he said, and I swear, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. "It's just the reflection of the ocean against the sky."
"And isn't water really wet?" I asked, just to prove my theory further.
"Not if you're totally submerged in water," he said. "Then it's not wet at all."
Honestly, I was ready to kill the little bastard.
"Is this finally it?" I wondered to myself. Is this the year that my kids set aside childish things and abandoned time-honored traditions that it took years to establish? Is this the year that we finally bid adieu to Canobie Lake, Water Wizz, even...dare I say...Santa Claus?
And all this was before the bickering started, about which ride to go on.
"I want to go on DaVinci's Dream," said Theo.
"And I want to go on the Viking ship," said Ashes.
"You can't," I said to Ashes. "It's closed all day today. There was a sign when we first came in."
"You always take his side!" she pouted, and folded her arms. "Fine. Then I just won't go on DaVinci's Dream."
"Fine with me," I said, trying desperately to maintain my temper. "Let me find you a place you can sit while the rest of us go on it."
When I returned, Theo started in on me, right away. "Ashes isn't going on this ride with us?"
I shook my head.
"Why aren't you making her go on?" he asked, pouting. "I wanted us all to go on."
That's when I started to get a little edgy. "My advice is, enjoy it while you can," I said. "Because I think this is the LAST time we're EVER going to Canobie Lake."
"I think what your dad means is the last time we're going with people who don't want to go."
"Nope. Ever," I said, letting the heat get the best of me. "Because you guys have really shitty attitudes."
Seriously, I just wanted them to disappear, there and then.
A while later, to beat the heat, Corb and I decided we wanted to go see the magic show, which we thought was inside a big air conditioned building. The kids didn't want to go, so we agreed to split up.
"But meet us right outside here, in half an hour," I said to the kids. "You got that?"
Ashes shrugged. "Whatever, dad."
Ten minutes into the act, we realized that the magic act was lame and the room was hardly air conditioned, so we made like Elvis and left the building.
"I just realized," I said to Corb. "The kids didn't bring their cell phones."
"Well, where did they go?" asked Corb.
I thought for a minute. Where had they gone? "I think they went to the Turkish Twist," I said.
So, we made our way to the Turkish Twist. Not there. We tried the roller coaster. Not there, either. We tried the Viking ride, just for kicks. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
"Well, we should go back to the Magic building," I said. "we told them to meet us there."
"Ted," said Corb, shaking his head. "These are your kids. They'll never remember that. This isn't the brightest thing we've ever done."
Twenty minutes later, and I was starting to get worried. The kids were nowhere to be found. Had my wish actually been granted? Had I actually made my children disappear? Was I a modern day MacCauley Culkin, in reverse? He made a wish and his parents disappeared. I make a wish, and...
But I didn't want to be MacCauley in reverse. Even if it meant I might have blond hair and blue eyes, which I always kind of wanted to have. I liked my kids. No, I loved them! Even if Ashes was moody and Theo disagreeable. Hell, they got both of those traits from me, after all, and those aren't even my worst traits!
So there I am, walking through the park like a crazy man, thoughts rushing through my head like, "Oh sure, Lord, NOW you take the time to listen to me! All those times I asked for a million dollars, unlimited leisure time, a full head of hair...did you listen then? NO! I make one little comment about my kids, and suddenly..."
That was the moment we bumped into them, heading in the opposite direction.
"Kids," I said, moving to give Theo a great big hug. He stepped back, appalled. "Where have you been?"
"We were looking for the Magic building," said Theo. "But, um...we got a little lost..."
Corb just looked at me and smiled.
Then, night settled in. Supper filled our bellies, and the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. And suddenly, things didn't seem quite so heated.
At ten o'clock, we hit the last ride of the evening: the Yankee Cannonball.
"I don't want to go," said Ashes.
"Why not?" I asked.
"They have a scene in Final Destination where someone dies on one of these," she said. "The roller coaster in the movie looks just like this. I don't want to die."
"You won't die," I assured her. "Please go on it. With me?"
Now, Ashes does have a point. The Yankee Cannonball is one of those classic wooden roller coasters, like the one in Final Destination. Built in the 1930's, the ride is about two minutes long, and basically consists of one long climb up, and then a quick whoosh down, followed by a series of small hills designed to give moments of airtime and strongly banked turns.
I don't know why, but it's always been my favorite ride in the whole amusement park. Forget all the fancy roller coasters you find at Six Flags or places like that. This was what a roller coaster was meant to be, simple and unspoiled, and full of a charm that modern roller coasters could never hope to capture.
However, I have to admit, as we started up on the initial incline, I realized something. It felt different, this time.
It was as if they had done something to the shock absorbers. I always had this memory of the ride being so bumpy. This time, the ride wasn't bumpy at all. It felt smooth, as if we were gliding on air.
The entire ride was pure, unadulterated joy. Curve after curve after curve. I sat next to Ashes, and the two of us just sat there, and marveled. And suddenly, I looked over at her, and she looked like a kid again. And maybe, somehow, I looked like a kid, in her eyes, too.
All four of us left the ride, laughing, feeling excited. It was the moment I had been waiting for since we entered the park, the moment that made it all worth the price of admission.
"Next year," I said, as we started to leave the park, feeling far closer than we had when we had first entered. "Next year, we have to go on that ride twice--first, when we get in, and then at the end of the day."
"What, is there going to be a next time?" asked Theo, and I knew from his tone that he was teasing.
Of course there was going to be a next time. After all, the kids may be growing up, but I had absolutely no intention of doing so. At least, not any time soon.
If they want to grow up, so be it. They can come along for the ride.