The following is a continuation of the end-of-summer account I wrote a long time ago… Enjoy this last little bit of summer fun… together.
Over the years Adventureland aged along with those who challenged it. The gorilla leaned to one side, and a cage was added that kept it from toppling over and squashing some young towheaded golfer. The once proud tiger was demoted to a token spot where he kept an eye on the giggling kids and their parents. One by one the doors quit moving, the water traps were drained, and the sand traps that held pristine white sand now looked more like dirty ashtrays filled with leaves and candy wrappers. But even in her decline and evident wear, she was still the queen of miniature golf parks.
That brings us to last night. With Taco Bell heavy on our breath, we pulled into the parking lot and were shocked to find our van the sole occupant. A cold, northern wind that smelled of autumn filled the air, and we decided to forgo the bug spray. Walking up the broken sidewalk, we passed a graveyard of old rusted rides that once terrorized young riders who grew up to have children of their own.
From somewhere, I thought I heard “Taps” being played. I guess someone saw us approach the main ticket building, because halfway there, the power flipped on, granting life to the arcade games and an ancient Skee Ball game that my cousin lost a small fortune playing. The once shiny temple of amusements felt old, and dirty, but good.
The fluorescent lights flickered in the empty building. It was like going home to find that your house was condemned and vacant. Sadly, I led my family back to the miniature golf counter and purchased two tickets for our oldest boys.
The kids chose their clubs and colored golf balls (they were too young to know the real advantage of having a red ball over a green ball), and then we stepped out onto the course. The sun had dropped below the tree line, and the red and green lights cast a faint glow over the course. There was still some magic in the old girl, and I was transported back twenty years. I half expected to hear one of my brothers run up from behind and cry out, “I wanted the red ball.” But instead, giggles of excitement bubbled up from the boys as they ran to the first hole.
Over the next hour we made our way up, over, and around all 18 holes, my boys exclaiming and explaining each hole to us as though I wasn’t already intimately acquainted with each. They pointed to the tall gorilla that was missing most of its hands and once snarling teeth as it rested against the building near hole two. They oohed at the carousel that rotated as their ball crossed its floor. They peeked in the paddle boat’s paint chipped door and stepped through the dry water traps that I splashed in when I was their age.
I relived each hole they played, remembering the times and the people of long ago. But as they played, my attention left the putting greens and old memories. Something else had captured my attention. It was two small boys running from hole to hole, their faces beaming, and a little girl who rested her head on the shoulder of the woman I love. And it was then that I felt it… that feeling of warmth that is kindled when you realize that you’re in a special place with the people you love the most. Mom and Dad, you need to have a place like that. A place to revisit from time to time with the people you just can’t live without.
Go have an adventure,
PS – You can find this story and others like it in my easy to read book, “The Bathroom Book of Fathering.”
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