Last Friday, April 27, I spent the day at Children’s Fairyland with one thousand other hot and tired attendees. It was a record-breaking crowd for Fairyland. The lines for the Magic Web Ferris Wheel and Flecto Carousel were long, as was the wait for a seat outside Johnny Appleseed’s Café. Almost everyone in the park was 5 years old or younger. It would have been a very good day to stay away from Fairyland, but I was subbing for a teacher who had, obviously, already thought of that.
There were lots of adults yelling and many children crying. There were screams and threats and more than a few instances of inappropriate behavior. There were no tables available at Teddy Bear Picnic Area during lunchtime. All the shady spots along the edge of the grassy fence line were occupied. The Jolly Trolly had to make emergency stops to wait for strollers and toddlers to cross safely over the tracks. There were several broken rides, but yellow caution tape didn’t prevent some bold whippersnappers from climbing over barricades, looking for fun.
Although I was with a group of nineteen five year olds, I was assigned the important task of monitoring one particular student, a little boy who needed special supervision. I pursued him as he ran from Willie the Whale to Crooked Man’s House to Peter Rabbit Village. Too impatient to linger long in any one spot, we spent time chasing bubbles at Bubble Elf, and pining for pink cotton candy and a blue plastic Fairyland key for sale at the Fairyland Gift Shop.
We slid down the Dragon Slide a half dozen times. We took several trips up and over Clock Tower. We stood in line for the Wonder-Go-Round but finally gave up. We stood in line for Jolly Trolly but left after a twenty-minute wait. We arrived at the carousel just when everyone else must have been eating lunch or waiting in line for the bathroom. We rode a brown horse once, a black horse twice and ended with a rousing giddy-up session on a white stallion. We checked out Miss Muffet and the Tarzan swing. We looked at ourselves in the Goosey Gander mirror. We had really big heads and short, tiny legs. We laughed at Ms. Parker, who was beet red from too much sun and exercise, and then we took off for Noah’s Ark and Old West Junction.
We climbed up the cement rocks near Hey Diddle Diddle, hit our head on an overhanging slab, and cried for a few minutes. We hung on the bow of the Pirate Ship, swung dangerously close to the water below, impolitely pushed several small people out of our way, and raced down the curvy path, past Pinocchio’s Castle and the Owl and the Pussycat. While rushing by the Three Little Pigs and over Yankee Doodle Bridge, I remembered that April 27th was the thirteenth anniversary of Ralph’s bicycling accident on Claremont Avenue. I looked at my watch just as I slithered down Alice’s Rabbit Hole. It was 1 p.m., about the time I learned Ralph was in an ambulance, speeding toward Highland Hospital’s Trauma Unit. But I couldn’t dwell on it for long as my charge was far ahead of me, tearing through the tunnels, pausing for only a second at the Mad Hatter before popping up into the Maze of Cards. We wandered around aimlessly, and finally emerged onto the sidewalk. My little friend smiled like the Cheshire Cat and shouted, “Let’s do it again, Ms. Parker!” I wanted to pause at the Chapel of Peace, but there was no time. I plunged down the Rabbit Hole again. Unlike 13 years ago, I knew for certain I would come up safely on the other side.