By Theresa Timmons
For The Herald Bulletin
Friday night my husband Seth picked me up after work. We had big plans for the evening. We were gonna spend some money, immerse ourselves in the loud music, the flashing lights — and enjoy the exciting sound of coins dropping into machines and the bells and alarms announcing a big win. We were gonna hit it big and walk away with the spoils.
Yep, we were on our way to Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Of course we invited my grandson. And his parents too, since they probably have the right. We also met up with some friends who have a 4-year-old granddaughter named Greenlie. This was Cayden and Greenlie’s second play date.
As we entered the establishment we were greeted with the bells-whistles-horns-siren sounds of token-operated machines. It was layered with the squeals of children and some background music. The combined effect on the decibel scale was more impressive than watching television with my husband, Seth, who can successfully recreate the stereo sound of IMAX in an 8-by-10 living room. We got our special hand stamp and immediately stepped up to a counter and ordered an enormous pizza/drink/token package, which advanced us another step toward poverty. Then we took our number and made our way past a big mouse (who was gently trying to peel several small tykes off his legs), through a maze of children and machines, and finally to a long party-sized table in a dining area.
And we four grandparents sat down (collapsed into seats). We noticed a large robotic mouse on a stage at one end of the room. The giant mouse suddenly came to life and belted out a revised version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” called “Living in a Rocking Chair.”
The crowd went wild. Seth is looking for the soundtrack on iTunes.
Our friend, Greenlie, is a beautiful little girl with doe-like brown eyes and a sweet disposition. She is calm, well-mannered and laid-back. When our pizza arrived, she sat quietly while her Nana cut it into manageable bites. She fully cooperated with the “you can play after you eat” proclamation. I think I heard her say the words “please” and “thank you” once or twice.
Across the table sat Cayden Timmons.
Cayden — who when trying to antagonize me into chasing him wildly through the house will say in a gruff monster-like voice, “BRING IT ON WOMAN!” Cayden — who forces me to be Captain Hook every single time we play, and he always gets to be Peter Pan, which I don’t think is very fair. Cayden (an only child) — who claims he once had a brother who was eaten by an alligator.
Cayden, sitting in the dining room of Chuck E. Cheese’s, knew there were all kinds of games waiting to be played, and the only thing standing between him and imaginationdom was a pizza that would probably taste just as good in four hours.
“I NOT HUNGWY,” he announced. His eyes were fixed on a helicopter that was lifting toward the ceiling with a kid in the cockpit.
“You gotta eat if you wanna play,” his dad said firmly.
“I NOT HUNGWY,” he repeated. He crossed his arms defiantly. Greenlie watched him in awe as she forked the bite-sized pizza into her mouth.
It was pressure. Perfect, well-behaved Greenlie versus Peter Pan with an attitude and a prison tattoo.
Cayden’s daddy whispered something in his ear then. I don’t know what — it might have been the threat of bodily harm, incarceration — or possibly a Tootsie Roll bribe. Whatever it was, it worked well enough to inspire Cayden to eat his pizza.
A few hours later, after heroic efforts by both families to spend hundreds of tokens, Cayden and Greenlie fed their mountains of tickets into the ticket-counting machine. I was pretty sure Cayden had enough tickets to buy a gas-powered kids jeep or a swingset.
But fortunately he seemed happy enough with the pencil and a few rolls of Smarties.
Theresa Timmons’ column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.