There are days that just have a fragile, delicate feel to them. Days so special and cherished it would take a catastrophe to disrupt it. Days when you get up at the crack of dawn just because you can’t sleep for thinking about the wonderful things that are to happen over the coming hours. Days when laughter comes easy, work doesn’t feel like work, walking for miles doesn’t wipe you out and you don’t need bubble baths with music to help ease a wearied heart.
Yesterday was one of those days for me. I got up after only two hours sleep, packed our picnic cooler and a bag of things we’d need. I checked the mental list in my head, made sure everything was ready, then went and woke each girl gently. We snuggled for a few minutes, savoring the fact that TODAY was the day, then excitement took hold and they leaped out of bed, donned clothes and off we scampered. Giggled at how there were no more days to mark off on our Countdown Calendar. An hour and a half later, we were there.
Beech Bend Amusement Park & Splash Lagoon in Bowling Green, KY.
The forecast called not only for rain but thunderstorms throughout the day but rain wasn’t going to spoil this. You see, we’ve been going to Beech Bend for nigh on seven years now. Each year, we get season passes and go about five times over a summer. The first year we went, we were amazed that we stayed from the time they opened the gates to the time the park closed. We knew then that we had found a treasure. That treasure has become quite priceless to our family; it represents a place where time seems unlimited, kindness is ordinary and memories are appreciated as they are captured.
The magic is in more than the nearly forty kid-oriented rides and water park. It actually starts with the dream. All year, we talk about this place. We make a list of all the things we’re going to do when we get there. And we make everything related to the adventure special. On the ride up, I told them how my sister and I used to pull our bent ours up and down whenever we passed a semi-truck because some of the truck drivers would honk at you if you did that. We decided to try it out. Sure enough, the very first trucker obliged, pulling his horn and eliciting shrieks of delight from the backseat. Another follow suit. We talked about CB radios and A said hers was “angel.” We sang.
We got to Beech Bend half an hour before the gates opened and had to wait. At least three times, A asked: “Are we in a dream?” It felt like it was because we had waited and waited…. seven months is a long time to wait! The gates opened and we made it through. We always go to the water park first. Water slides, wave pool, lazy river, a 10ft deep pool that’s bigger than an Olympic sized one and features a lily pad crossing water obstacle for the adventurous kid–or double chocolate dared mom.
The only way I can enter water that’s known to be cold is to dive in. So I am usually the second in; Breathe will slide into the water, laugh at how cold it is, then duck under the water all before I have a chance to shed coverings and just jump into the freezing depths. Alight will jump in but it takes her longer; she prefers the hard way-easing one toe in at a time. Her “best” place to be is the obstacle lily pad course. She loves “swinging”, crossing by holding the ropes as though it’s a monkey bar set. She’ll do it time and time again, blisters and all.
Once we’ve spent an hour or two splashing in the pool, it’s time for the first round of rides. They like the ones that could compete for the Most Likely to Cause Hurling Award: Scat, Hurricane, Moby Dick, Tilt A Whirl things that no six year old should possibly want to ride. And they like doing these crazy rides multiple times in a row, until I can barely walk away from the ride upright.
It was during the first round the my daughter said: “I can’t believe we’re really here.” It was hard to believe. It was hard to believe that sometimes time does stand still; hard to believe that sometimes the moments you’re living can be so lovely you don’t even have to wonder if they will linger in each other’s memories. No one, after all, forgets being worthy of another’s undivided attention. No one forgets holding hands while flying high only to drop quickly, as you do on the Sea Dragon. No one forgets the time talking to someone else was so fun you didn’t stop talking even while you were flying around in circles while sitting in a car that rocked from side to side, as is what happened to my daughter Breathe and I while on the Flying Bobs. It’s hard to forget getting stuck highway up the big incline on the log ride while your mom laughs about how fast your heart is going (she knows because you’re leaned against her and your heart is racing so hard her palm can feel it a your belly). The rides are fun but sharing the experience with someone makes it priceless.
After rides comes the magic show with tricks we saw last year but are still memorized by: a girl disappearing, a card trick, a magician eating fire. Magic is special to us: Dinky Gowen, the magician who performs daily at Beech Bend, is who got the girls hooked on magic. Last year, we bought home his magic kit; this year, the girls go to a local magic club where they learn more magic tricks. It inspires confidence in them–and gives hours of fun.
We stopped by Granny’s Petting Farm. A goat was pregnant; my oldest was thrilled by this news. Hours later, we’d return to the petting farm a second time and discover that the tiny kid had been born while we played. Fragile, delicate, beautiful new life. It felt perfect.
By this time, we’re hungry so it’s time for pizza, hot dogs, nachos and ice cream. While we eat, we talk about what we are going to do next. This time, we were ready for another round at the pool. So we flip flop between the water park and the amusement park. Every so often, one of the girls asked: “Do we still have lots of time?”
Finally, time runs low. We get out of our swim suits, change into our pajamas and head out of the park. Mrs. Queenie, one of the employees, greets us at the gate, asks if the baby dolls we’re carrying had fun. I didn’t realize it until I saw some of the same employees from last year, but I’d missed even the employees. They are unfailingly kind; they treat you like you’re family. We didn’t have to stand in any significant lines, all the rides were open and for 9 straight hours, the outside world simply didn’t exist. No disturbing calls, no checking of emails… just precious time spent laughing and talking with each other.
We’d packed our umbrellas because thunderstorms had been forecasted–but not a single drop of rain fell all day. We’d waited for this day all year and it turned out to be a beautiful day, even in weather. No one argued, no one cried. It was too precious a day to be spoiled by frivolities. It had been about seven months, since last August, that we had been to Beech Bend. During that time, I don’t know how many maps of the park we’d drawn, or how many times we created a mini Beech Bend using our hot tub and zipline as the attractions. Seven months is a long wait, especially when you’re six and nine. But, after such a delicate, beautiful day, I know the wait was worth it. Beech Bend is an amusement/water park with all the rides (they have the Rumbler, Power Surge and Vortex for those truly brave thrill seekers) plus the added bonus of a downhome feel, genuine people who are so kind even my six year old commented on it when the employee at the log ride picked her up to help her into and out of the log. We’ve been to bigger amusement parks–Dollywood was last year–but all agree that the bigger parks seem to be lacking a special ingredient only found at Beech Bend: magic.
When we arrived home, the girls collapsed into exhausted sleep and I took a bath. Only this bath wasn’t to self-console, it was simply to ease aching muscles. Frankly, I work really hard to provide days like this all yea: we go on adventurous outings three or four times a week and even when we stay home, I am deeply involved in their playtime. I don’t believe in saying “go play”; I strive to stimulate their imaginations into growing beyond video games or movies. It also serves to strengthen the bond we have with one another: it’s why we have memberships to so many different places around town. Still, sometimes, we all feel the exact same joy at the exact same time and, when that happens, it’s as though the whole day is gift-wrapped just for us as a way of reminding us that life is precious, fun and can even feel like a dream come true.
And rainy thunderstorms had been predicted.