This past weekend, the kids attended a birthday party for one of their pals at the Paragon Carousel at Nantasket Beach. Thumbs up to Gwennie: This was an all-around great idea for a children’s b-day party – even from an adult perspective. Being outdoors, by the ocean, instead of holed up in some crappy Chuck E. Cheese incarnation was reason enough to celebrate.
Not to mention, faced with the prospect of unlimited rides on the carousel, all of the kids were practically convulsing with glee, running in circles, rejoicing, jumping up and down, becoming unglued with excitement -- and this was way before the birthday cake and subsequent frosting conniption.
(Unbridled enthusiasm: You can power a city with this.)
The kids lined up and parents snapped pictures of their respective offspring on the flying horses, offering up the mandatory geeky commentary: "Woo hoo, hold on, here we go!" But by the fourth go-round, it was anything but merry. Parents, increasingly squeamish, looked at their kids in horror as they jumped back in line for a fifth go-round. “Oh my freakin’ God…Again? Seriously?” We had to flip the“suck it up” switch that most parents of young children have --- the same switch that allows you play Candyland for the 20th time or watch Heat Miser every night straight into June without becoming suicidal.
Faces draining of color, we got back in line for the carousel because we knew it brought the kids joy. It’s joy by proxy. (euphemism for "what a bunch of f-ing sucka-chumps").
The whole sentiment reminded me of something I read in the reviews for the movie “Knocked Up” last week. Apparently, there is a scene where Paul Rudd’s character – the father of two rambunctious little girls – speaks wistfully about how juiced his kids get over little things like bubbles. However, their joy brings forth a covert melancholy in him that is exclusive to grown-ups: "Their smiling faces just point out your inability to enjoy anything," he says.
(I’d attach an addendum: “an inability to enjoy anything that doesn’t include wine and snacks” but that's irrelevant here.)
There is something slightly depressing, I guess, about how mesmerized Caroline and Paulie are by the fish tank at the pediatricians office -- or by an ant -- because I know I will never feel that kind of wonder about such things again. But you get over it pretty quickly, say, when one of them tries to lick the fishtank or eat said ant.
And it's not that you're incapable of experiencing joy after a certain age, it's just not as pure as it is for a young child. It's basically the same reason we don't eat Fun Dip anymore. But while fewer things inspire a physical manifestation of joy these days, they still exist: I assume winning the lottery would be one such occasion.
My recent "literally jumping for joy" memories: U2 unexpectedly returning to the stage to play a stripped down version of Original of the Species at the Garden 2005 * the Red Sox beating the Yankees in 2004 (this not only brought joy but also the adrenaline to pick up Vito and march in a victory circle) * Learning of new additions -- human or canine * We practically have a parade every time Paulie uses the toilet so I guess we're doing ok on the joy front.
So, this past Saturday, we and other ministering mommas and poppas tried to harness some of the joyful feelings of yore and get back into the game. We mounted these so-called flying horses of the storied Paragon Park and rode side saddle with the kids.
The result: A bunch of green-faced adults dry-heaving on the Nantasket boardwalk. Perhaps there IS such a thing as too much joy.