You’re probably wondering what adventures have kept me away from posting here for a week. C’mon, I know you were.
Several things, which I may talk about later. But truly the most fascinating adventure happened tonight. At McDonald’s of all places.
The kids had been good while we were on another one of our adventures today. So after going to the library to pick up their prizes for the summer reading program, I took them to McDonald’s so they could play and I could write.
We get here early and the place is nearly deserted. It’s just us and a grandma and grandpa with two-and four-year-old boys. Shortly after we begin eating one of the boys is screaming in terror from inside the play maze. The grandma and grandpa call for him to come down. They send the four-year-old up after him. He goes up and comes down several times, seemingly unconcerned about his little brother’s emotions. Sounds about right for a four-year-old boy.
Finally, I lean over to my daughter and ask her to go up and see if she can help the little boy get down. She loves helping little kids, which is about right for an eight-year-old girl. She goes up and is gone for five minutes. Finally, we see her and the little boy out one of the portholes. His face is red and blotchy, snot running from his nose. My daughter’s using her most patient voice (one I never hear her using with her brother), trying to talk the boy down. He’s not budging. He can see Grandma and Grandpa, and he can’t understand why they can’t get him.
Grandma starts towards the tunnel and begins crawling in. No way is that going to work, I’m thinking. She figures this out, too, and backs out. But the only way this little boy is going to get out is if a grown-up comes to get him.
Which would apparently be me. Even though I'm over 5'9", I’m flexible so I figure I can worm my way up there.
Except for one thing.
I hate small spaces. I especially hate small tubes. I won’t go on waterslides that have tubes, thinking somehow it’ll close in on me and drown me in three inches of water. I'm sure this all goes back to the time I was traumatized by my brothers who stuffed me in a backpacking mummy sleeping bag. They yanked the drawstring, closing the small opening over my face to a pinhole. My chest starts closing up just thinking about it.
Childhood trauma aside, that boy isn’t coming down unless I go up there. Where’s Sharon Hinck and her Secret Life of Becky Miller red cape when I need it?
I kick off my sandals and start crawling inside the tube. It can't be that bad. I'll just crawl up, get the boy, and crawl back down. I can do it. It's not that easy. How do kids do this? I’m stuck with the choice of crawling on hard plastic on my knees, which isn’t comfortable, or trying to get my feet under me. Problem is, my legs are too long and threaten to wedge me in this hot, plastic tube which is getting smaller by the minute. It’s not my imagination, I swear.
I make my way through the tube which starts winding up. I can’t see what’s around the bend. Sounds echo through out, and it’s really hot. I can feel myself starting to panic, but I push it back down. I get to one of the intersections and yell for my daughter. I hear her voice but I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. I can just imagine getting stuck in here, the fire department pulling me out. Of course, how would they get in here?
Just then, little “Calvin” comes scampering up. I had told him to stay down at the table and finish eating. I was also hoping he’d guard my purse and laptop which were at the table. Though I suppose if I’m rescuing their grandson, Grandma and Grandpa won’t boost my stuff.
“Hey, where’s your sister?” I ask my son.
“This way, Mom.”
Good. My kids frequenting McDonald’s has paid off. They can help me navigate out of this human Habitrail.
After more turns and climbs, with multiple reminders to myself to breathe, I reach my daughter and the little boy. I find it interesting that even though my daughter is clearly a “big kid” to the little boy, he still doesn’t trust her the way he trusts me, an adult.
“Hey, buddy. You want to go see Grandma and Grandpa?”
His eyes get big and he nods.
“Okay. Follow her. I’ll be right with you.”
My daughter and son lead the way, and I coax the little boy from the rear. As we’re heading down the slide, me half sliding, half scooting, I become afraid that my weight might make me pick up speed and knock all three kids out of the shoot like human pin balls. However, we all make it safely down, and the Tiszai Family Rescue Squad saves their first victim. The little boy runs to Grandma, and they are all extremely grateful. Too bad they weren’t editors; I bet I could have gotten a book contract out of them. I manage to uncurl myself from the tube and straighten my reddened knees (I'll have bruises tomorrow, I'm sure), grateful to breathe air-conditioned air again and be in a room larger than two feet in diameter.
I may have conquered the human Habitrail, but I’m still not going on a waterslide that has a tube.