Worth the Price

By Melissa Face

Worth the Price

“Book!” my 19-month-old demands. Evan’s tiny hand grabs the Elmo pop-up book from mine and pulls it into his car seat. Upon closer look, he realizes that this is not the book he had in mind. “No,” he says while shaking his head. “Choo train.” I look down for his vehicle book and hand it to him, hoping he will be satisfied at least until we back out of the driveway.

My husband, Craig, pulls our vehicle out onto the highway, and we begin our 5-hour road trip. We are going on summer vacation to Boone, North Carolina. And while we are not strangers to long drives, we are dealing with a new element this year: our toddler.

Evan is at a really adorable age, one that I wish I could pause for a while. He has this beautiful zest for life that is rarely seen in an adult. Evan loves dogs, cheese toast, ice cream and vehicles. He especially adores trucks, tractors and trains. And even when he is not able to actually view them, he loves to talk about trucks, tractors and trains. In fact, repetition does not bother him a bit. That’s why I am a little worried about surviving the next four hours and fifty-five minutes.

But the car ride goes smoothly, and we fill the time singing, reading, watching passing vehicles and laughing. Evan takes an hour-long nap and before we know it, we are at our cabin in Boone.

We don’t make any major plans for the week. We intend to sleep in, cook some good meals, sit by the campfire, walk around the downtown area and visit a few shops. We keep our itinerary open to new possibilities and unexpected fun.

That is exactly what happened when we passed an amusement park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, one afternoon. I had heard of the park, but had no idea we were staying so close to it. It had an old west theme and the main attraction was a steam engine that carried passengers on a three-mile ride through the hills.

I had seen a brochure for the place, but I thought it was a little pricey. I also kept in mind some advice from a friend. “You shouldn’t take Evan to expensive parks when he’s really little,” she urged. “Wait until he is five or six. He won’t remember he was there.”

I knew she was right. Evan probably wouldn’t remember anything about the entire trip. He is only nineteen months old. Plus, we had been able to keep him entertained for a very low price so far. We didn’t spend any money showing him the fire trucks in downtown Boone, and it hadn’t cost us a dime for him to play with my brother-in-law’s dogs at the cabin. He was having a blast – for free.

Nevertheless, I talked my husband into taking us to the theme park on our last day of vacation. “You know how much he loves trains right now. His taste might change in a couple of years,” I pleaded. “He’s going to be really excited.”

And boy was he. Evan bent his knees and clapped his hands when he first heard the train whistle. He pointed and smiled as it approached us and talked and talked about it while we boarded. Evan was a bit wary of the cowboy staff that accompanied us, and he got a little teary when they fired guns during a pretend battle, but all in all, it was a wonderful experience.

After we got off the train, we ate lunch in the park. From where we sat, we could watch the train go by, and Evan squealed in delight with each trip it made around the park.

“Bye-bye choo choo,” he said, every time it passed us.

We stayed at the park a few more hours and rode some rides and played a couple of games. No matter where we were in the park, the train’s whistle was audible, and it always made Evan’s face light up. “Bye-bye choo choo,” he said, over and over again.

Craig buckled Evan in his car seat, and we pulled out of our parking space. We started chatting about whether we thought it had been worth the price. “The admission was pretty steep for the number of attractions,” Craig said. “But Evan really liked the train, so I guess it was worth it.”

We were heading back towards our cabin on the main highway when Evan waved his tiny hand and said, “Bye-bye choo choo. I love you.” Then, he drifted off into dreamland.

Craig’s eyes met mine in the rearview mirror and we both smiled. My friend was right about one thing: Evan probably will not remember going to that park. But my husband and I will never forget it. That moment alone was definitely worth the price.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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