With the scent of hot asphalt invading our senses, the three of us traipsed through the oceanic parking lot. We were already bathed in sunscreen and nervous energy, moving closer and closer to the whooshes of the rides teasing the perimeter of Six Flags over Georgia.
One monster coaster loomed directly next to the entrance gate, the cleanly executed loop-de-loop in direct counterpoint to the heavy metal roar and terrorized screams radiating from it. I looked down at the small head of brown hair beside me and said, “Cool, huh?”. When he looked up, those eyes did me in. They always do. They are unmistakably his father’s eyes.
I’m used to seeing things in those eyes: Wisdom well beyond his eight years. Wheels turning as he invents new mischief. Sparkly twinkles when he’s laughing (which is often). Excitement for new adventure. But at this moment, those green-tinged amber eyes with impossibly heavy lashes were full of worry. “You okay, Squirt?”, I said.
And bless him, he said that he didn’t want to go on any of the “upside down ones” because they made his “tummy feel sick”.
Whoa for a minute. Such perfectly stated logic cannot and must not be argued with. I know grown-ups incapable of communicating that succinctly!
Problem was, Squirt’s dad had huge hopes that his son would brave the big-kid rides. Isn’t it amazing that even with 24 years between them, each can be so classically male-driven? One fearful of disappointing the father. The other overzealous in his desire to please his son. Aunt Peach only had one choice. Squirt’s father’s expectations needed to be adjusted if this day was to be filled with a sense of joy rather than fear.
And here is where I tell you that I love this little boy so much it’s stoopid. I have since the day he was born. I can tell you exactly where I was the night that I received the phone call, and how many happy tears fell. Since I moved South, he and I have been able to bond in a way that twice-yearly trips home for the holidays cannot possibly compare. In this moment, he was trusting me to make this okay. No small potatoes, people. So I did what I had to do.
And then, all was well in the world. Squirt was 8 going on 8 again, not 8 going on 18. He delighted in the shops that housed all kinds of cool kid stuff, the bumper cars that rattled my brain but delighted him, and the monster mansion where I pretended to be scared so he’d hold my hand if he was too. We let him eat frozen lemonade for lunch and said not a word about it. Squirt and I wandered the games and arcade while we sent his dad on three or four of the big scary rides. We all went on the swings and non-upside down coasters together. I did go on this Superman ride, and while it was face-first-freakin’-awesome I swear to you it screwed up my hip socket (It still hurts, OW!).
Then there were the water rides.
For the record, being head-to-toe soaked fully clothed at 3pm means you’ll be dry by exit time of 5:30pm… thank you, Georgia heat.
What I took away from this day wasn’t the sore
old-lady hip or even the fun of the rides we did. Instead, I won’t soon forget the way he held my hand when we were walking between rides. The way we goofed off in line and he pretended to punch my stomach super hard to test out my developing ab muscles. (yep….still mushy.) The way he wiggled his loose tooth at me and giggled when I grabbed him in a noogie hold to fake-yank the sucker out. The piggyback ride he let me give him and how the souvenir bag full of t-shirts and ripcord bracelets and shark tooth necklaces bumped my hip with every step.
And I won’t forget that when this boy spontaneously throws his arms around me and tells me he loves me, it makes me feel like Superman. Even more than the ride did.
My heart is full.
This. This is why I moved home.
Participating again in the awesomeness that is Yeah Write. They rock!