Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another installment of the Minivan Chronicles

Nothing beats a good birthday party—especially when you're nine years old.

This morning I drove my daughter and two of her friends out to Bellevue, Washington, an approximately  45-minute drive from West Seattle, to a place called "Sky High Sports." Whoever cooked up the idea behind this business is brilliant. It's a huge, converted warehouse, filled with different trampoline activities, like dodgeball and foam-rubber-pit-leaping (which appeared to be a cousin of the oh-so-sanitary IKEA ball pit.). They also provide pizza and the trimmings for birthday parties.

The unexpected bonus, at least from my perspective, of this morning's trek, was the opportunity to listen to three fourth-grade-age girls talk and play in the back of our (also oh-so-sanitary) Kia van. As they discussed the party ahead, the topic turned to trampolines.

Katie chimed in."So my cousin, Annie... she's eight. She can do a backflip. On a trampoline. My cousin, Justin...he's ten. He can do a backflip. On a trampoline. My cousin Emily...she's thirteen. She can do a backflip. On a trampoline."
"Nuh-uh," said one of the other two.
"Yeah-huh," fired back Katie.

Time for the next topic. It's interesting to me how kids bounce back and forth between actual and virtual activities.
"Do you guys have a Wii?" inquired Lauryn.
"I do," said someone.
"I'm really good at ski jumping and tennis and boxing," Lauryn offered. "Really good."
I wanted to say, "Lauryn, let's rephrase that. You're really good at manipulating the Wii remote," but I abstained from being a grumpy naysayer.

Actually, the Wii really is an amazing device. Everything is so pseudo-realistic. The boxers can do everything shy of biting each other's ears off, and the tennis players come just short of screaming and threatening the line judge's life. And I kind of wish that the ski jumper would possess the potential to fall off the side of the ramp and stumble down the hill like the "agony of defeat" guy from the intro to ABC's Wide World of Sports.

The three girls then began looking outward and greeting everything they spotted along the road: "Hi, sign. Hi, dirty truck. Hi, lines on the freeway." I had to halt that activity after about thirty seconds. The old man in me tries to be patient, but has a short fuse when is comes to squeaky, little female voices shouting over each other.

We arrived at the facility and I dropped the girls off inside. As I drove back alone, I reflected upon how refreshing it is to listen to nine-year-olds laughing, talking and making up games and tall tales. I'm usually ferrying my teenaged daughter and her cronies back and forth, and however enjoyable their repartee may be, it's usually confined to talk of other kids, and it's not always warm and fuzzy. Teenagers tend to forget that their chauffeur actually is a living, breathing carbon-based organism, equipped with a listening apparatus and the capacity for higher thought and analysis.

For whatever reason, the nine-year-olds are aware of these truths. What a difference five years makes.

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