A few weeks ago, our local parents magazine started advertising their annual Family Fun Festival (go ahead, say that three times quickly). The shindig itself was free, but way at the bottom of the ad, I saw that there was an option to buy tickets to a character breakfast with–wait for it–Clifford (the big red dog?!) and Curious George. It was like Saoirse’s fairy godmother was personally waving a red flag at me, shouting, “Hellooooo, lady, look at the sheer joy we have concocted for the sole pleasure of your young daughter!” I did a happy dance, took out our much-abused bank card and bought us a little spot of happiness. David calmly said, “Oh, that sounds cool. Saoirse will love it.” Saoirse saw the ad lying on a table where I had cut it out, grabbed it, and carried it around with her for five days.
So, Saturday, we–I, David, and the mighty Quinlan, of course–took Saoirse to meet her hero. I was a basket of nerves, because she’d been talking about meeting Clifford–you know, bigger-than-a-house Clifford, talking-to-his-buddies Clifford–the Clifford that carries small children around on his back. In a beach town. With a sweet, adorable Emily Elizabeth as a constant companion. Saoirse was geared up to meet that Clifford, not a short, sweaty teenager in a furry red costume. Gulp.
Let’s survey this hour-long breakfast from a grown-up’s perspective, shall we?:
- Tickets that cost $25 apiece for adults, including admission and food.
- Tickets that cost $15 apiece for children, including admission and food, even for 12-month-olds who don’t so much eat as smash pancakes into their hair, as well as an optional upcharge of $10 for a t-shirt, photo op with character of choice, and a plastic bottle of water.
- A dark, gloomy room at our local community college’s student center, lit by yellowish fluorescent lights and adorned with flags from various countries and a creepy cutout of Twilight‘s Jacob in a window, whose eyes kept following us around the room.
- A breakfast of something of eggy consistency, bacon that saw the inside of a pig a long, long time ago, sausage and cardboard-y pancakes with syrup that wouldn’t know a maple tree if picked a fight with it in broad daylight on a Vermont street corner.
- Dave said the sausage was pretty good, though. And there was coffee. Bonus points for strong coffee.
- Balloons running amuck, a story time filled with dancing furry creatures and rapt children who would alternately read aloud with the stories (memorized by heart, natch) and stand up in the middle of the throng to crane their necks to make sure their parents were watching.
- The aforementioned teenagers in furry costumes, who, bless their sweaty little hearts, were amazing with the kids.
- The natural inclination to look one of these furry creatures in its fake, plastic eyes while speaking with it/him/her, only to realize that one should really be gazing into its/his/her screened mouth to at least attempt some sort of one-sided eye contact. This then leads the speaker to end up bouncing her head up and down like a bobble head on a drag racer’s dashboard while she tries to figure out where the heck to look for the anxiety-producing duration of a one-minute conversation.
- Lots of helicopter parents, myself (if only this day) included, whose faces were constantly obscured by the cameras that were permanently held up to one eye, mine included.
- A veritable outlet sale of strollers, blocking traffic, tripping children, covered with crumbled pancakes and confetti.
- Children who just did not understand why Clifford had to leave at the end of the hour. What do you mean, he had to go take a nap? Or eat some dog food? Or go see Emily Elizabeth back on Birdwell Island? Don’t you realize that it’s just a dude in fuzzy costume, Mom, but I love him and why is he running away from me?!