Tonawanda News — Thirty feet.
That’s not all that much of a distance — the amount of space between the first down markers in football. At full speed, an adult could run across that distance in seven steps or so. Some can spit that far.
But on this afternoon, it felt like a million miles.
I had the opportunity to take Penny and Rigby to Martin’s Fantasy Island. Penny’s been thrilled this summer that she’s tall enough for some of the grown-up rides. She even dragged me on one, a large, spinning contraption that also tilts riders forward, so they face the ground from atop the ride’s circle.
Nausea aside, it’s made for a fun summer thus far. But it’s been a bit more lonely, too. Penny’s been undeterred by any lack of adult supervision, giddily running onto a ride by herself — and expertly getting others to help her into the seat — if no one else wants to go.
So there she’ll dangle, from 30 feet in the air, wearing the biggest smile the world’s ever known. She’ll wave and scream hi every time she circles the bottom, clearly having the time of her life — without you.
The hours pass, but their energy level doesn’t diminish in the least. They occasionally pull in different directions, disagreeing on what ride to do next, but for the most part Penny and Rigby are on the same page in terms of ride repertoire.
They love the Ferris wheel and the antique cars, and on the way back we come across an old favorite — the crazy bus, which spins riders around forward and backward in a relatively small circle. I happily grab their hands and work my way through the line when Rigby tugs at my arm to get my attention.
“Daddy? Can Penny take me on by myself?”
“Um, sure, buddy.”
“OK. Go stand over there.”
So, while Penny helps her little brother onto the ride, I stand off on the sidelines. They both put their arms in the air and scream as the ride rotates, just like I taught them last year and the year before — when they used to let me ride with them. I can still see them extending their arms skyward even at the ride’s farthest point from me, about 30 feet away. Rigby waves to me from out the window for a second, then looks forward again and revels in the ride’s fun.
I help them down the stairs — or try to, anyway, as Rigby pushes my hand away and sternly says, “No, I can do it BY ... MY ... SELF!”
We make our way over to the children’s section of the park, and they put their hands out to ask for money for every ice cream stand and game we pass (Ha! They still need me for SOMETHING!). They both beg to ride the carousel as soon as we pass it, and I am happy to oblige. Rigby’s still too short (for today, at least) to ride by himself, so I help him onto his horse, which he’s named Bullseye, and reach around to help Penny. Only she’s not there. She’s walking clear around the carousel. I call to her, and she tells me she wants to ride by herself since she’s tall enough to do so.
On the opposite side of the ride, from about 30 feet away, I can see her expertly climb up the horse all by herself. She holds it by herself, sits straight, doesn’t horse around (get it?) — everything she was taught to do on a ride. She smiles, waves and yells giddyap to urge her horse forward, thoroughly enjoying the ride all by herself.
We work our way around the kiddie rides, ending at some beanstalk contraption that takes riders up and down. Penny’s been waiting for two years to be tall enough to ride this, so she’s thrilled every time we see it now that she’s met the height requirement. She boards the ride and motions for Rigby and me — who are standing at the gate surrounding the ride — to move away. We take five steps, then she points to a bench 30 feet away.
“No, Daddy. I mean go sit over there while I ride.”
We take a seat on the bench and watch her drop up and down. She disembarks and runs over to us, eager and willing to keep riding all night long. But, as it’s already past bedtime, I make them leave the park and head to the van.
They get in their own seats, put on their own seat belts and take sips of water without my help. I take the driver’s seat and get ready to leave. I’m certainly less worked from a day in the park than I would have been in years past. But I’m not entirely happy about that.
I barely drive 30 feet before Penny speaks again.
“Daddy? Can you make us dinner when we get home?”
“OK, Daddy. Can Rigby and me eat outside by ourselves?”
Contact Paul Lane