I spent the weekend in Brooklyn with my sister and her family. On Saturday I went to the Louise Bourgeois show in the Guggenheim, which was incredible, then I walked down to meet up with my sister (S) and my niece (T) at this amusement park place at Woolman Rink. They were there as part of a birthday party (a friend of T's was turning 5) and had unlimited ride wristbands. T was in hog heaven. All of the rides were tailor-made for younger kids and she was loving it, the giant rotating swings being her favorite. But alas, eventually is was time to go home. She was so bereft that we had to carry her out. (And I don't mean "carry her out to our car" — I mean carry her several blocks to the subway station, and then once we got to our stop, carrying her several more blocks.) She cried and cried, inconsolable. "I don't want to go home!" she'd sob. "I want to stay here!" S bought her a hotdog and an apple juice, but it didn't stanch the tearflow. During my turn at carrying her, I tried to distract her by coming up with silly names for the stuffed lizard she (sort of) won at whack-a-mole. "How about Slithery? How about BlueToes? How about Fred? How about Bugeater McLongtongue?" She said no to each one, but at least she wasn't crying... It took being completely absorbed in a sticker-related activity book on the subway to make her stop. She was totally wiped out, of course; with all of the rides she went on, she's probably never spent that much adrenaline before in her life.
The next day, we were supposed to go to the Riis Beach in Queens, and after a cranky morning and an early afternoon nap for T, it was about time to go. But she did not want to go. She wanted to lie on the sofa and stare at the ceiling, instead. Every strategy we tried, failed. "But I came down here just to go have fun at the beach with you," I said. "Remember how much fun we had when we went to the beach a few weeks ago?" S said. "I want to stay here," T said. "You know, there's no TV if you stay home," S said. "And I'm going to go home too, if we're not going to the beach, since that's the only reason I'm still here," I said. "That's OK," she said. "If you don't go, I'm going to be very sad. Very sad, and very angry," said S. "That's OK, mommy," she said. We demanded she give a reason for her reluctance, and she finally said that she was scared of the waves, or something, and we assured her we'd hold on tightly to her hands. Nothing doing, she still wanted to stay here. Then, over her horizontal body, me and S and my brother-in-law talked about forcing her to go. We knew she would love it once she got there, but would it be worth it? Or she could stay home and be bored, but we would be respecting her wishes. Hmm... Finally, T said, wearily and with disdain, "Alright, alright! I'll go."
From then on it was smooth sailing. We got her suited up and slathered with sunscreen, we drove to the beach, we frolicked in the dead-jellyfish-laden waves, we built a sand castle. On the way to the car she started getting very sad; not crying, but melancholy. On the drive home, she said, with sorrow, "I don't want to go home."
S: Why not, honey?
T: I just don't want to go home. I didn't want to go to the beach because I didn't want to go home.
S: What is it about home you don't like? If you tell me, maybe I can do something about it.
T: Well, I guess because it's not the beach.
S: It is really sad to have to leave a place you really like. Everyone feels sad when a fun time is over. But it's worth it to go and do the fun things, even if you feel a little sad after. Otherwise you'd just stay home and be bored all the time.
T: I guess.
S: Is there anything we can do to make going home better for you?
T: I wish our home could be like the beach.
S: How could we do that?
T: Well... We could get a bunch of sand, and put it on the floor. And then we could put a pool in the middle.
S: That's true, though sand is kind of messy. Plus, cats really like to pee and poop in sand, so it could get gross.
T: We could just build a wall around the sand so the cats can't get in.
We drove on in silence for a while, then S said to me, "I think T got the same kinds of strong emotions that we had as kids." "Yes, I know," I said. And I felt sad.