Ever since we got home from our start-of-the-summer trip to Disney, the Puddinette and I have been intending to take the family to King’s Island. Not only because it’s a prime destination for the roller coaster-set, but it also has the added advantages of
- We don’t have to drive 12 sanity-rending hours to get there,
- We don’t have to sell any of my children to afford the place for a day, and
- It requires little planning beyond, “Hey, let’s go,” (as opposed to managing a logistical endeavor to rival the Normandy invasion).
With summer quickly rolling to a close in these here parts (school starts next week, he said with a twitching grin as if swallowing giddy, hysterical laughter), time was running short to hit the park. So I took the day off Monday and we climbed aboard the family truckster for the arduous 40 minute drive north.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that while once a frequent guest of King’s Island, before this trip, I probably hadn’t been to KI in close to a decade. Lots of things have changed somewhat since my last trip, including CBS/Paramount’s selling of the park to Cedar Faire.
We arrived just after it opened, and it was neat to experience the rush of visitors flooding through the gates and onto the fountainy expanse of International Street beyond. Except, that thing that happens when you’ve become a crappy old grown-up happened to me before we even had our “Welcome to Kings Island, Here, Could We Take A Few ‘Grimacing Children Who Just Want To Ride Rides RIGHT NOW’ Pictures So We Can Sell Them To You Later This Afternoon?” registration ticket in hand.
As I looked over what I’d been expecting to be a familiar scene, I noticed, wistfully, that everything was smaller than I’d remember it.
International Street was shorter. The Eiffel Tower (a one-third scale replica of the one in Paris) seemed laughably small and squat, and well-worn paths from one section of the park to the others seemed closer together and less daunting.
All of which, of course, are things most people deal with when comparing adult reality to childhood memories. But knowing it and accepting it are two different things.
Knowing it is a cognitive exercise.
Accepting it requires letting go of yet another tiny cloud of sparkly magic you hold, precious, in your head.
Sometimes it seems that adulthood is little more than the world trying to steal all your clouds of sparkly magic as fast as it can.
But. I’m forty now and I expect these sorts of things. This ain’t my first rodeo, after all. With a sad little grin, then, I brushed off my initial disappointment and got on about the business of sharing with my kids many of the things that long ago gave me the same sense of joy I saw on their faces throughout the course of the day.
As the day wore on, though, and the rides were ridden and lines (queues for all you puddintopians across the pond) waited, something happened. Something changed. Much of it probably had to do with taking the Puddinpop and Mini-Me on their first King Island rollercoaster rides. With seeing them conquer the subtle—and sometimes not-to-subtle—fears that comes with a thrill ride to achieve the rush of adrenalin when that coaster train finally comes to a stop.
Whatever it was, when the day’s rides finally came to an end, when we stepped off The Beast just after sunset* and made our way back toward International Street for the customary end-of-day funnel cake and fireworks, something had changed. The Street matched the length the child in me expected and the Eiffel Tower soared above, now a thrilling icon of potential rather than a disappointing symbol of the contrasts between memory and maturity.
Whether the park had grown big again, or perhaps I had been made small, the dimensions of the place once again, somehow, impossibly, exactly fit my expectations.
And my kids w00ted and cheered as the last of the fireworks lit the sky, and then asked if we could come back again tomorrow.
Not quite so soon, I think, but soon enough for sure.
Because there’s nothing quite as wonderful as getting back a little of that sparkly magic.
*arguably the best ride in an entire day of coaster-riding at the park