Tonawanda News — I’m writing this several days out from the event in question. By the time you read this column, it will be long over.
Hopefully, I’ve recovered. I’ll let you know.
My oldest son turns 8 soon. He’s not the sort to want a million presents, or a huge spread of food (just basketball cupcakes, this year) or a big bash, but he is specific about what he does want. Very specific.
Yes, for the third year in a row, the Keppeler family will party at what a friend’s daughter once termed “the Big Mouse House.”
Oh, not Walt Disney World. This Mouse House is a certain chain institution known for its pizza, video games and prize counter, namesake mascot and a catchy jingle that’s fairly ubiquitous on local TV and radio. Jimmy adores the place: Pizza, lights, games and his oh-so beloved Skee Ball. What could be better, right?
Let’s just say I think they put a liquor store on the corner near the restaurant for a reason. By the time parents emerge, they need it.
Me, I have history with the Big Mouse House anyway.
It dates way back to the years when my family would occasionally drive to “Buffalo” (it was all “Buffalo” when I was growing up in Cattaraugus County, from Hamburg to North Tonawanda) and we would all take turns at selecting a restaurant at which to eat.
My younger brother would always pick this place. Always. I, seven years older and with all the attitude of a teenager with a younger sibling, loathed it.
• I hated pizza.
• I was “too old” (from the lofty height of 14 or so) for the characters.
• I didn’t like the games. (I was just old enough to be a devotee of the “old” arcade classics. OK, I was a snob.)
• I wasn’t any good at the games anyway.
• The noise level, well, let’s just say the word “cacophony” comes to mind.
I would mope over my sliver of detested pizza every time, despising the time wasted when I could have been at the bookstore (trips to “Buffalo” equaled bookstore time for me because my tiny hometown doesn’t have one). And I looked forward to the day when I wouldn’t have to step foot in the place ever again.
Fast forward 30 years.
Once the boys started getting older, people started suggested we take them there. “They’ll love it!” they said. “It’s perfect for kids!” they said.
I pretended I didn’t hear. I told myself the kids would hate it ... they were my kids, weren’t they? (Ignoring the fact that they were also their uncle’s nephews.) They weren’t old enough anyway.
Then, one gloomy Sunday, with two over-active little boys and nothing to do, I heard myself say it. “Let’s take them to ...” I couldn’t believe myself.
They, of course, loved it.
They ran around nonstop. They wolfed down the food. They played and played and played. They wore themselves out.
Maybe the place wasn’t so bad after all.
I learned a lesson that day. You can’t control everything your children like and dislike. That’s really not the point of parenthood.
And if it’s as innocent as, say, a kids’ gameroom and pizza parlor, you count yourself lucky and go with the flow. Maybe you even wind up, well, liking it a little. Seeing your kids having fun, even in a place you hated, goes a long way toward changing those memories, after all.
My oldest son loves it so much, in fact, that we’ve been earnestly asked to spend the past three birthdays there. And I have a really hard time saying “no” to those big blue eyes, especially when it’s something as ... sigh ... harmless as this.
Happy birthday, Jim. I still can’t believe I’m the mother of an 8-year-old, but I hope it was fabulous.
Even at the Big Mouse House.
Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at email@example.com.