As a geezer who has learned that life has its ups and downs, as well as its twists and turns, especially with small children who aren’t prone to motion sickness, I have often been taken for a ride.
That’s what happened recently when I took my 3-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, to the Mattituck Strawberry Festival on Long Island, New York, and accompanied her on all the best kiddie rides.
This brought back fond if unnerving memories of the many times I took my daughters, Katie and Lauren, on roller coasters, Ferris wheels and other vertiginous vehicles designed to scramble brains, overturn stomachs and test the bladder retention of adults whose young companions were required to complete the physical and psychological damage by screaming directly into your ears and causing a lifetime of auditory damage before the white-knuckle experience was mercifully over.
As it turned out, I loved these rides even more than my daughters did.
We were regular (and sometimes irregular) visitors at the St. Leo’s Fair and the Annunciation Greek Festival, both in our hometown of Stamford, Connecticut; Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut; Lake Compounce Family Theme Park in Bristol, Connecticut; Playland in Rye, New York; Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey; and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.
We never visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida, possibly because I didn’t want to get in line while the girls were in kindergarten and finally reach a ride after they would have graduated from high school.
Also, I wasn’t keen on the idea of having to take out a bank loan just to buy a day pass and then melting to death in the blazing heat.
That’s why the Strawberry Festival was so much fun: It was low-key and inexpensive.
As soon as I arrived with Chloe and her daddy, Guillaume, we scoped out the rides, some of which were tame and meant for younger kids like Chloe, and some of which were wild and meant for older kids like me.
I went on the tame ones with Chloe anyway.
We couldn’t find the Teacups (maybe because it wasn’t 4 o’clock), so we went to the Carousel, where Chloe shunned the horses (she won’t grow up to be an Olympic equestrian, I guess) and instead rode the bench (which I used to do in Little League).
First, Guillaume went with Chloe, then I did.
“Are you having fun, Sweetheart?” I asked as we went around and around and waved to Guillaume every time we passed by.
“Yes, Poppie,” Chloe answered, though I could tell she wanted to go on something a bit more exciting.
She’s too young (and short) to go on crazy rides like the Octopus and the Giant Swings, so we settled for the Wiggle Wurm, which not only proved, as every fisherman knows, that worms can’t spell, but was so cramped for adult riders that, as my knees rammed into my nostrils and my boxer shorts rode up into an area generally reserved for medical specialists, I could have been the lead singer for the Vienna Boys Choir.
It bounced and jounced along, swooping up, down and around at a speed that seemed excessive under the constrictive circumstances but probably wasn’t much greater than that of a car driven by a little old man creeping in the left lane with his turn signal on.
Finally, we went on the Fun Slide, which required Chloe and me to climb a set of stairs not appreciably shorter than those in the Empire State Building and then, settling onto a canvas bag, whoosh down at a speed that could have broken all existing records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
It was so much fun that we went three times.
Next year, Chloe will be old enough to go on some of the bigger rides. My heart, stomach and boxer shorts can’t wait.