Summertime…sticky-hot days, fast and furious rainstorms, short-shorts and ice cream dripping down my arm; this is high-summer, when school and closed-toe shoes are a distant memory and my skin has bronzed from just coming and going. There is a specialness to the air, and it feels just right for a trip to the Amusement Park.
For a few hours, life is IS all fun and games. I am fortunate that my town is home to Seabreeze Amusement Park, a park born in 1879 on the shore of Lake Ontario, less than 10 minutes from my house. As kids, my sister and I would fearlessly ride every single ride while my mother held jackets and game prizes –we thought her un-adventurous and maybe a little boring, and we waved to her from flying heights. As she cringed and frowned on some ride choices, we laughed. Then, we grew up.
Now my sister and I take her boys for a day of fun at Seabreeze, leaving home her husband and mine as neither has EVER enjoyed amusement parks. What’s not to love about hot pavement, screaming kids and premium-priced everything?
During last summer’s amusement park excursion, our rides were limited by my nephews’ heights. Plus, at ages 3 and 5, there was a 50% or better chance that one of them would be crying by the end of any ride. Then we all rode the Tea Cups and a funny thing happened. A ride that I last regarded (twenty years ago) as practically a baby ride left me feeling a touch…queasy.
By the time we exited the Tilt-A-Whirl, during which a four-person carriage spins around, attached to a disc that rotates us with three other carriages, which is attached to the larger platform that spins the entire ride around on a third mad cycle, I was in a cold sweat. As I clung to a park bench, mentally counting the steps to the closest trashcan, D. asked me, “Aunt Terra, which is your favorite ride?” I answered with utter honesty, “THIS one, buddy.” He thought that was hilarious. I didn’t get my land-legs back for almost three days.
This year, I made the prudent decision to avoid spinning rides altogether. K., JUST tall enough, took his maiden voyage on the Jack Rabbit, the second oldest roller coaster in the United States. He gave it mixed reviews, but I think he’ll try it again next year. I wait with D., who declares that he will not ever ride it, not that he is tall enough anyway. In fact, he was conservative all day, avoiding anything that seemed remotely exciting, except for all the rules he broke with wild abandon (running, standing on the skeeball lane, cutting in line, etc.).
The boys “drive” cars, “fly” planes and “skipper” boats, then we hit the arcade and burn through a roll of quarters in about 15 minutes. K. is startlingly adept at Bumper Cars, deftly avoiding most cars and steering us smoothly through open outer lanes. Really, there are drivers I see on the expressway that could take a few pointers from this six year old.
The soaking rain comes right on cue while we are lunching on fried-something-or-others. The boys are gravely concerned about “getting all wet” until my sister and I point out that we are all already wearing our bathing suits. I dumbly even say that we could go right out into the downpour and it wouldn’t matter. Guess what we do next?
By the time D. is willing to walk on the wild side, the rain subsides to a sprinkle that peters out just as we stroll into the water park. Can two boys really be so different, yet in such harmony, in their wailing? K.’s sense of adventure lies in the “tweener” area where baby rides are a yawn, but anything with a real thrill (read as: rides or slides that the Aunt is actually willing to try) is just a touch advanced. But we do slide in a tandem inner tube, screaming in unison and splashing down seconds later, only to hike back up five flights of stairs to do it again. D. is off with Mommy, doing something safe and ho-hum, an impish grin behind all the splashing.
A ride called The Minivan Drives Home
Carousel music, light-hearted screaming and the chugging whine of park ride motors are part of my summer soundtrack. The fragrance of fried food and the welcome drench of the Log Flume complete the day. I am exhausted, but this is a summer classic. My only regret is that while our wisdom in arriving early in the day helps us to avoid the biggest crowds, I don’t get to see the rides lit up at dusk, the arcade aglow, or feel that cool lake breeze blow through the park while the roller coaster, and its screaming riders, thunders in the distance.