On Sunday as I sat across from my boyfriend at brunch, my plans were to share a meal with him and then spend the rest of the day reading or writing or both. He'd made mention of needing to write charts that afternoon, so when he looked at me with that grin, the one that starts on the right side of his face, and said, "What if we went to Six Flags today?," I didn't think he was serious.
Then he pulled out his phone to make sure the park was open (it is January after all, even if we are experiencing 70 degree weather every day), and sure enough, it was. He looked at me again, grinning even bigger this time.
"Want to go to Six Flags?"
I didn't need to think about the answer. Of course, I wanted to go to Six Flags. Especially with him.
The spontaneity of his proposition reminded me of one of the happiest days of my childhood. One Sunday, before my parents were divorced, my sister and mom and I were on our way home from church. In the car I asked my mom if we could go to Opryland.
"Ask your father," was her response, and every kid knows exactly what that means, and that's a big, fat 'no.'
I asked him anyway, knowing full well we weren't going to be riding the Wabash Cannonball that day.
"Daddy? Can we go to Opryland?" I was already deciding on which coloring books I would fill that afternoon as consolation when he said yes.
Plot twist! What?! You mean I just *asked* if we could go to the amusement park on a Sunday afternoon without any advanced planning and the wish became a reality? I was drunk with power, loopy with giddiness. I was about six years old.
Add thirty years to that six years of age. Cut to me smiling widely over a plate of eggs. We were going to go to Six Flags on the spur of the moment. Because we wanted to. This was the adulthood I always dreamed of as a kid.
Happy and laughing, we took his car to Vallejo. We secured expensive tickets, scoped out which roller coasters to hit up first and then tackled them. We wound through the park hand in hand and stood embracing while we waited in lines. We pecked cheeks and let the sun warm our faces. We shared a vanilla soft serve cone and took our photo with a real, live penguin.
It was the best day.
As we waited for the wooden coaster, our limbs entwined like 14 year olds, I watched an actual pair of 14 year olds. Two girls, both fully teenaged with the scowls to prove it, waited with their arms crossed and their eyes permanently rolled.
"This sucks," one of them said. Her eyes were full of disgust, her body rigid.
Her friend just sighed and ticked her eyes upward in response. One thing was clear: they would both rather be anywhere than at Six Flags on a sunny Sunday.
Suddenly I was transported back to my own year at 14. How I spent the entirety of it with my arms crossed and my eyes rolled, too. How I'd rather be caught dead than having fun, because having fun wasn't cool. And I desparately wanted to be cool.
These teenaged girls were wearing cute little dresses and their hair was expertly rolled. Makeup had been applied carefully and in excess. It was as if they had somewhere they wanted to go, but it definitely wasn't where they were. Their posture read, "I'd rather die than admit I'm having a good time." I seriously think their arms were crossed even as the roller coaster sent them spriraling upside down.
I looked up at my boyfriend, his grin, his face, how happy he was to be waiting in line for a ride, and I exhaled hard. I wasn't there any more. I wasn't 14 and miserable and vulnerable and afraid to show that I'm happy. I'm miserable and vulnerable in different ways, but I'm no longer scared to be seen smiling.
Good thing, too, because it happens a lot these days.