Wrapped tightly in a light comforter and waking to crispy blue skies reminiscent of a morning in early October, a blessed relief from the wetness of a typical summer in New Jersey, I considered the day a gift.
Then, I remembered that we had plans to go somewhere that I swore we would never step foot in again – except, under the influence of something anesthetic in nature – especially, on a hot and humid day in July.
I remember the date well – July 14, 2004 – my parents gave us tickets to a theme park.
It’s not that I have anything against them personally… theme parks, I mean. Nor do I put myself above anyone holding a season pass, or hold a grudge against those of you who are going to Disney, again – lucky ducks – but I had to sit down and actually do the math of what it would cost to just get into Great Adventure:
$50.00 (x) 5 regular admissions
$30.00 (x) 1 junior admission
Add in another two months worth of my husband’s paycheck for food, drinks and an occasional trinket or two, and I start getting the cold sweats.
It’s only 45 minutes away, for goodness sake, can’t I come up with a better argument than that?
Well, there’s… oh, how should I word this without offending anyone? Okay, the whole dealing with people thing. And don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean. But I cannot stomach rudeness, or listening to dozens of whiny children (who, are NOT mine) and the parents that believe theirs are the only ones worthy of a good time really piss me off, too.
[takes a deep cleansing breath]
Ahhh… that’s much better… oh, wait… what about the whole waiting on line, thing – two hours of standing for 30 seconds of riding – all this and on a Saturday?
Nope, not my idea of a fun time.
The firm my mother worked for was holding their annual family picnic at Six Flags Great Adventure, so you can probably imagine her excitement when she called to tell me.
“You’re invited…YES all of you…and…it’s…on…them!”
Needless to say, the kids were stoked and I was, well, not. But, at least I wouldn’t be alone this trip, because I made my husband come, too. He hates theme parks as much as I do, maybe even a little bit more. Still, in keeping with the whole misery loves company idea, we went.
Thankfully, the good outweighed the bad and, truth be told, we had a pretty good time.
One of my least favorite moments, however, was spent standing on a line for over 45 minutes and watching all of the people with a “virtual ride reservation” going ahead of us.
“What’s the deal with them?”
The attendant shrugged his shoulders and explained that they were ticket holders for the “Fast Lane”, a system advertised as:
We’re ready to "stand in line" for guests who want to enjoy every minute of their visit!
Okay, maybe it’s me, but, like, who doesn’t and when did they just start copying that idea from Disney?
My parents started to get tired and left well before dark, but my husband and I thanked them and agreed that we would stay as long as possible, because we wouldn’t be back anytime soon.
Not unless it’s Disney and we could get reservations for six, in super-economy coach, or something with very little or no waiting, please.
It turned out to be a very long day, as the kids and I slowly made our way through the park toward the fireworks show and had to separate our large crew to accommodate the few seats that were left.
I don’t know if it was my nerves or fatigue, but I sat there, watched the show, and I soon began to cry.
Yep, I bawled my eyes out.
Maybe it was because the show was a tribute to America, dubbed with stirring speeches and moments of the past, or perhaps it was since I always cry when I hear Lee Greenwood’s performance of “God Bless the U.S.A.”
I tried to find where my husband, Garth (not his real name) and the three girls were sitting, but the flashes of light were disorientating and I’d lost sight of them while squeezing into the section, nearest to the lake, in between two senior citizens who had an argument and chose not to sit, or speak to one another for the rest of the show.
It’s not unusual for us to separate at such large events and, more often than not, the girls choose to stay with their father and The Boy hangs onto me. He’s 9 years-old now and already pulls out my chair, grabs a grocery bag (without being asked) and answers the phone for me.
“Hello, my Mom’s busy, call back later!”
I’m beginning to suspect that my son feels his mother needs help (okay, I do) and thinks that I couldn’t possibly function without his constant support. Truth be told, I find his little acts of chivalry quite flattering. Besides, it won’t be long when his attentions will abruptly drift from me to that of another damsel in distress – a younger and perhaps prettier version of me, dammit.
They were building up to the finale, so I held my son a little tighter – The Boy always hated loud noises and still holds his ears while flushing the toilet with his foot – and I began to rock back and forth to the music to soothe him.
His hair smelled like popped corn and I watched it change from blonde, to pink, to purple and to whatever color fireworks burst over his head and I was surprised to realize that he had fallen asleep! I’d like to believe that it was because he was feeling safe and warm in his mommy’s arms, rather than being dead-dog tired. Now that I think about a little more, it was right before he started kindergarten and I can still remember that awful feeling of loss.
Only today, I realize that it’s pretty much the same way I felt after having given birth and wonder if it will be the same, when they grow up and eventually do get to see Disney, you know, on their own.
America has changed quite a lot in 4 years and I’m pretty confident that many parents would probably agree with me. Raising children in today’s consumer driven world can get very expensive. There are some days when I want to throw open my window and scream.
“I’m fed up and I just don’t want to do it, anymore!”
But, on a particularly cool day a couple of summers ago, I was reminded that – though another summer has passed and we still won’t be able to afford that trip to Disney – there ARE still a few things in life left that are truly priceless.
Like, spending the 4th of July with my twin brother and his wife, celebrating Independence Day with a bunch of soldiers and – though, the drive to Ft. Dix will probably take a whole tank of gas – being afforded the opportunity to show our appreciation to some of the bravest men and women I know, in person!
That alone will make it well worth the trip and we didn’t even need a reservation.