June's a bust all over

Posted by jdg | Thursday, September 04, 2008 |

For all that I deny my daughter, I do spoil her once every afternoon. All summer long, at the end of our daily jog we stop and she rides the carousel along the river a few blocks from our house. She has ridden this carousel every single weekday this summer. She has her favorites among all the impaled creatures dipping and soaring counterclockwise in their permanent orbit. She relishes the daily debate about which one she'll ride: maybe the mermaid today; the flat-headed sturgeon? No: the River Dragon. It's almost always the River Dragon, a gentle-eyed sea serpent right out of the imagination of a sixteenth-century cartographer. The creatures on this carousel are a mix of real and fanciful fauna: fish and wild fowl that might live along the banks of the Detroit River. I don't think she knows yet which are real and which cryptozoological. Sometimes she sees mermaid tails slipping into the river while we run.

Anything I do in my own life with this much regularity inevitably loses its appeal. But the fact that she has ridden this carousel every day this summer has not yet dampened her enthusiasm for it. That's one truly great thing about being a kid, I guess: repetition heightens the pleasure of experience. When the operator starts the vast symphony of bevel gears and offset cranks, she smiles as though she's never experienced anything like it before. Even when she thinks I'm not looking, I see her beaming around the next curve.

And yet again I contradict myself: every day I look forward to this moment in a way I look forward to little else. The fact that we do this every day has never dampened my own joy in seeing her grip that dragon's mane as if it might skip off its moorings towards Windsor. I am always beside myself with love for her. Cue Joni Mitchell. I am Holden Fucking Caulfield.

Goddam it.

September 3rd was hotter than August had ever been and I pushed them through town in the jogging stroller. We rolled past the old dry dock and Juniper shouted, as she always does: "Broken building!" When we turned the corner towards the carousel, I saw the metal grate pulled down over the ticket counter. The power was off, the tinny soundtrack silenced. The hours had been cut back after Labor Day. Until next June, the River Dragon will only move on weekends.

"Summer's over, kid," I said, a pit in my gut. "Let's get ice cream."

But even the ice cream concession was closed. The next day preschool was to begin. As ill-prepared as I'd felt for it, this summer with the two of them has been the best of my life. I looked at my daughter's sweaty cheeks and disappointed eyes as she stared at the static carousel.

I knew exactly how she felt.