I had been waiting to take Thalia to Rye Playland for ages. The only one more excited was my father, who spent many 70’s summer weekends coaxing my brother and me onto the ricky-ticky haunted house ride, springing for caramel apples and unwinnable midway games, and gobbling down lukewarm hot dogs (the contents of which might convert the most stalwart carnivore to vegetarianism) all for the love of his children. We only lived a few towns over, and each summer we could count on at least one family excursion there.
The Playland of my youth was a far cry from the how-long-can-you-go-without-puking theme parks of today. You’d find art deco architecture, beautiful gardens, classic rides like bumper cars and the whip, and a single adult coaster in the old-style wooden Dragon Coaster. The boardwalk on the park’s eastern border was magical even before the movie Big came along and introduced it to the world. And you could also always count on some amateur dance troop to kick-ball-change across the main stage (Jazz hands, everyone!) for your entertainment when you needed to sit down out of the sun for a bit.
In high school, there was a brief summer when the park experimented with pay-one-price admission instead of ride tickets. That was the year we’d take on The Rotor 10 times in a row, allowing the centrifugal force to stick us to the carpeted wall while trading urban legends about previous Rotor riders and the wacky and wild things that happened to their semi-digested lunches.
(Is it even possible that my own stomach was ever able to withstand such torture without emptying its contents in foul and violent ways? And afterwards, take in beer? Cheap beer? I can hardly believe it.)
But it was my younger days in Kiddieland with its little toot-toot cars and helicopters you could “drive” which formed my sweetest memories–and where I couldn’t wait to take Thalia.
The place is far more run down than I remembered it; the attractions representing old amusement park charm–like little tableaus of animatronic nursery rhyme characters–are sorely neglected. The “Playland Express” train ride takes you on a tour past painted plywood cutouts of such can’t-miss local landmarks as the Westchester County Center. Most of the teenage ride operators were apathetic, if not downright annoyed. (Would it kill ya to smile at a cute two year-old even once?) The food was frightening.
And our day? Absolutely, deliciously perfect.
A few things I learned:
-Just because you rode the Rotor 10 consecutive times in high school does not mean you ride the Kiddieland car ride even once without feeling nauseated when you’re pushing 40.
-Oh my God, I am old.
-If the makers of Windex would consider making a deal with the park, I think the Hall of Mirrors could very much use your sponsorship. I knew I was That Mom (as Her Bad Mother put it) when I chased Thalia through the glass maze crying, “Don’t touch anything! Don’t touch anything!”
-The single most captivating attraction to a 2 year old girl at Playland: No idea, but it has Care Bears in it.
-Some people need to bring boom boxes into a theme park to have a good time. You can totally see why–theme parks just aren’t inherently fun. In fact I put them in the same category as traffic court and the hospital emergency room on Christmas Eve.
-If your daughter is begging to see the singing cats and you have no idea what in God’s name she is muttering about, take a look around. If you still see no singing cats, but your daughter is now on the verge of tears asking for the singing cats, look again. When you decide to walk away assuming there’s some sort of cat character walking around, yet your daughter is now flailing wildly in your arms screaming SINGING CATS, that is when you’ll notice that right in front of your face is something that to a toddler very much looks like singing cats. Stupid Mommy.
daddy wailed baseballs at the singing cats.
-Food at a theme park is an afterthought. Not for you maybe, but for the theme park. And if Dippin’ Dots are the “Ice Cream of the Future” I will happily remain in 2007 forever.
-While you can put any number of vegetables in front of your daughter and she will refuse to even try them, you can offer her some puffy pink thing on a stick that looks like stuffed animal innards, and even though she’s never heard of it before, she instinctively knows it will taste like pure sugar.
-Grandpas, not money, make the world go round. Although a grandpa with money is definitely an asset on the midway.
-If you find a midway game filled with a bunch of seven year-old campers, don’t be all nice and parent-like and wait for them to finish up. Take those beyatches on! You may very well win that Dora doll on your first try for a total cost of $2, instead of the $168 it customarily takes.
Now I can cross that yearly good mommy deed off my list.
-Turn your head for one second and you child will inevitably find the one thing you don’t want her to.
-Whatever you do, save the carousel for last. Nothing will compare. Not even the Dora doll.