Our sweet boy is another half a year older. So we are hurtling toward two digits—a thought that is sobering.
We celebrated with a little getaway to Niagara Falls. Jack’s been asking to go there—and Canada in general. We all have valid passports so we pulled together some Groupons and headed towards Lake Huron. He’s been to Niagara Falls before—a side trip we took on our way to New York City when he was still a toddler. It was a Father’s Day weekend trip—we remember this especially because Robby accidentally clocked Jack in the head with the hotel door leaving him with a big purple knot on his forehead. Jack, of course, doesn’t remember the trip. We assume that is because he was so little—but maybe that door knocked it out of him?
The falls were partially obscured by the huge shells of ice. Our little geologist looked at them for a long moment while we asked, “Well? What do you think?” He answered slowly, “I thought they would be bigger.” We looked at him, each other, the falls, and back to him and each other. He had a point. The ice—which Robby and I, with our memories of the falls in the summer months, do obscure the depth. You can’t really see the churning water below. Also, the resident engineer pointed out that more water is diverted in the winter months—so the full on glory of all those gallons rushing over and down into the wildly tumultuous grand finale of a finish was rather subdued.
Thankfully he was still enchanted by the constancy of it. All that water ceaselessly pouring, pouring, pouring into a roar and dissipating mist. The double rainbow that appeared was icing on the cake.
He was impressed with all the people, too. So many different nationalities and colors—all of us drawn to the same edge to peer over into the roiling depths. He craned into listen to the different tongues—his eyes widening when he recognized some snippet of French or German or Chinese.
The real joy, though, in bringing a 9.5 year old to Niagara Falls is all the silly touristy things that line the area. Is there any more ripe age for the arcades and blinking lights and cheesy “museums”? Our Grouponed hotel gave us a stack of vouchers for restaurants and attractions. We set off on foot dodging the icy patches created by the mist from the falls and the barkers trying to wave us into the haunted houses and junk stores. Momma had given us money to take him on the giant Sky Wheel—we bought our tickets for a night time ride to see the colored lights splash across the falls and ice and all the lights from Lundy Lane, Clifton Hill, and Fallsview areas. The cold kept us from some of the stuff—no Maid o’ the Mist boat rides or Under the Falls excursions or even Dinosaur Adventure Golf—but we did play a few rounds of (free) laser tag, laser maze, and an hour and a half of arcade games when a kind stranger gave us his barely used token card with $48 still on it.
And we had the long stretches of time on the drive, the indoor pool, and waiting for our food to catch up again without the usual distractions of homework, work, church, and school. On one stretch he peppered us with question after question after question—none of them connected—but all from his head. Questions about dinosaurs, the falls, the Bible, fossils, mammals, our opinions…. We finally said, “Stop! Buddy! Can we hold up for a while on all the questions?” Jack answered, “But, Mom! I like being an inquirer!” (He got to keep on with the questions.)
Robby and I have both been to the falls area several times. Seeing it now through Jack’s eyes made it new again for us. (Even while I couldn’t help but wonder what questions I must have peppered my parents with when they took me here—and how, like Jack, I “hoped” we could do more, play more, swim more…)
When we pulled in the first day we inadvertently drove right by the Great Wolf Lodge—a chain of waterparks that is one of Jack’s most favorite places to go. In the front seat we held our breath that the little man in the backseat wouldn’t notice it—that we would escape what inevitably came out, “Mom! Dad! Look! There’s a Great Wolf Lodge here! Can we go?” I worried that our plain-pool hotel would suddenly lose it’s luster. Robby gently said, “no—not this trip, buddy. We have other things to do and see…” Three days later, on the way home, Jack said suddenly, “I’d still like to go to Great Wolf Lodge—but not at Niagara Falls—I wouldn’t want to miss seeing the other stuff there. But maybe the one in Ohio because there isn’t anything to do there.” Small victories, friend. Small victories.