As posted in September, my husband and I committed to individual dates with our grandchildren. We’d intended to do this twice a year with each child. But, with five grandchildren, and another making his debut any minute, we needed to step it up. So, we finally enjoyed our first date with our second grandchild. Coordinating around runny noses, holidays, work, school, and family time becomes more challenging as they grow.
Our date with “Tinkerbell”, granddaughter number two, age five, was even less spontaneous than our date with “Katie“, granddaughter number one. Tink wanted to do everything we did with her sister — only, with amusement rides. One thing we hadn’t thought about: 5:30-7:30 p.m. in January is a lot darker than 5:30-7:30 in August. Also: 5:30-7:30 p.m. in January is a lot colder than 5:30-7:30 in August. So, our repeat environment seemed a bit dreary in comparison to the first.
To add to this dismal atmosphere, once we found a vacant table in the Mall of America food court, a maintenance man had a seizure. Our five-year old granddaughter sat with her mouth gaping open as my husband rushed to assist the fallen, convulsing man and I dashed to the nearest concession for assistance in calling the mall emergency line. Once we and Tink were assured he’d be okay, our cold food didn’t seem very appetizing, so we whisked her off to Nickelodeon Universe. There, we would have to have fun in a hurry. We only had time for three rides.
Since Minnesota time moves according to the thickness of molasses — teenage amusement ride attendees move much slower in January. By the time we got on and off the Merry-Go-Round, we only had time for one more ride. Tink’s selection: the Hot Air Balloons. We thought we remembered the entrance location. We didn’t. Grandparent’s minds work slower in January, too. We walked the perimeter of the indoor park one and a half times before we found it — at the hour we should have taken her home.
While we stood in line, I asked if she’d like both of us to ride with her or just Papa, since I joined her on the Merry Go Round. “Just Papa,” she said. “Otherwise, who’s going to take pictures?”
The attendant had a broken foot. Oh no! The good news: the ride held approximately 20 big and little people. The bad news: Tink and Grandpa were customers 21 and 22. After 12 and a half excruciatingly slow rotations, they boarded.
After 12 and a half more flights around the pole and 25 blurry pictures, we swept Tink off to the nearest escalator to the ice cream concession. No time to ask what dessert she preferred.
As we enjoyed our sweets, a little girl, about seven, sat beside Tink. Obviously, a serious dance competitor or child beauty contestant in her short sequined dress and giant bow, the girl polished a small trophy, hoping to win Tink’s adulation. Unsuccessful, she batted her false eyelashes — the ones below her blue eyeshadow, and above cheeks of rouge.
“Oh, brother,” I thought, “Tink’s parents are going to kill us if Tink decides she needs make-up or false anything.”
Luckily, Tink’s half of a mint ice cream chocolate cookie sandwich won her adulation instead.
Even though we knew it was late, we couldn’t forego the dollar store sibling gifts. Tink selected a bottle top necklace kit for sibling number one, a paint set for her younger sister, miniature dinosaurs for her toddler brother, and Tinkerbell coloring pages for herself. She even found Valentine candy for her parents. (Coincidentally — Tink’s favorites.)
As we drove her home, I thought about how Tink had rarely been anywhere without a sibling. I’m sure it seemed weird, riding alone in the dark back seat with Grandpa and Grandma up front, so I turned and mouthed “I love you” with each passing mile — amidst insincere, giggly protests.
We thought Grandpa and I would be grounded for missing Tink’s curfew by an hour, but her parents were surprisingly calm. The whole family swarmed us as Tink proudly distributed her gifts.
Tink and Katie hugged — an atypical occurrence. “Do you like your present?” Tink asked.
“I LOVE it,” Katie gushed.
Tink beamed. Grandpa beamed. Grandma beamed.
Hmmm…Strategic spontaneity still works — even when it’s a repeat performance in the dark.