Surviving with Suzie
My 9-year-old friend Jenae came over to our house for a weekend visit.
“What are we going to do?” she demanded.
“Let’s see,” I answered. “We could practice your multiplication tables. We could read. We could check my e-mail, make dinner, clean up around here or go outside into the garden and pull weeds.”
She looked at me as if I were crazy. “No,” she said. “I mean what are we going to do?”
“Mmmmmmm. How about resting here on the couch?”
“Look,” she said, ticking off activities with her fingers. “We could go bowling. We could go fishin’ or ice skating or to the movies. Or, we could make a cake.”
“We don’t have a fishin’ pole,” I said.
“I know,” she answered, “but we can make one. We’ll get us a stick and some string and a hook and some meat. We’ll put the meat on the hook, then we’ll go to the beach, put the hook in the water, catch a tadpole and watch it grow into a frog.”
“You want to watch a tadpole grow into a frog?”
“Sure, why not?”
I thought about the options. I was not as confident as Jenae that we could make a fishing pole, catch a tadpole and watch it change into a frog. Bowling sounded awful. I knew I wouldn’t like her choice in movies having already seen, at her insistence, a remake of “The Mummy.” Making a cake would require more patience than I could possibly muster. That left only ice skating.
“All right. We’ll go for a skate.”
We bundled up and headed for Iceland, where a line of 13 year olds snaked around the corner. We stood between squealing girls and sullen boys, inched our way to the front of the line, bought our tickets, got our rental skates and hit the ice. Literally.
“I thought you said you could skate,” I shouted as we picked ourselves up from the cold, hard surface.
“I did,” said Jenae. “And I can, if you didn’t pull me down with you.”
We brushed ourselves off and wobbled forward. We fumbled our way across the rink. By the light of a hundred pairs of the silver, gleaming braces inside our co-skaters mouths, we were able to guide ourselves through a maze of teenage bodies around the rink just once.
“Let’s get somethin’ to eat,” said my charge, leaning unsteadily on a wall as others whipped by us. “I’m hungry.”
“No way. Another time around, young lady.”
“My feet hurt.”
“Too bad. So do mine.”
Around the rink we went, hand in hand, and then another lap and another lap after that. Jenae forgot that she was hungry and that her feet hurt. Rap music pumped loud and hard and a strobe light kept things spinning. I began to feel delirious.
“Let’s stop,” I said, breathless. “I’m tired and hungry and my feet hurt.”
“Okay,” said Jenae. “Just one more time around and then we’ll go bowling. I sure hope you’re a better bowler than ice skater.” She let go of my hand and glided across the ice, between the skinny girls in bellbottoms and the boys in baggy pants and backward baseball caps. Strobe lights pulsing, rap music pumping, I wished she could stay a kid forever.
But as she came back around the rink, then did a fancy backward spin to stop, I knew she’d soon be ready to stand in the long line to Iceland without me.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s get to the bowling alley before it closes. And tomorrow we’ll bake a cake, go to the movies, buy a fishin’ pole, catch a tadpole and watch it change into a frog. Hurry up!.”
Susan Parker is a North Oakland resident and author of “Tumbling Down,” which will be published by Crown Books next year. Her columns will appear from time to time in the Daily Planet. You can reach her at email@example.com.