Happiness is an amusement park


Once the weather gets warmer, my sisterís daughter, who will soon turn four, will be asking to go to the amusement park. Her parents usually take her, but every now and then, I volunteer to drive my sister and her two kids there, so we all try to squeeze into my little two-door off-roader and, with two screaming toddlers sitting behind me, I try to concentrate enough on the road to get there and back alive.


I love my little SUV. It is quite tiny- put it next to a Ford Explorer and the latter will probably burst into laughing fits. But I am happy with it and it has everything I need, such as tires, a steering wheel and a CD player. I understand it also has an engine.


I have plenty of CDs in the car, so always turn the volume up so the kids can hear. My niece enjoys childrenís songs and dance music, while my nephew is more of an intellectual- he likes to relax to the soothing sounds of Vivaldi and Saint-SaŽns. He also likes Barney the Dinosaur.


And so we drive down the road, music blaring, and get to the old decrepit amusement park featuring rocking horses and bumper cars that have been there since the Carter Administration. My nephew is too small to use any of them, so he sits in his buggy and looks on. He is easy to amuse- you smile at him and he will smile back.


My niece, on the other hand wants ice cream, cheese puffs and fruit juice, before she eventually gets on the carousel, and we pay fifty cents for three minutes of her going round and round. My sister and I sit and watch, while her brother smiles at us. She goes around. And around. And around again, to the strains of the most appalling childrenís song, until my sister and I are both seasick and wonder why on earth we brought her there.


And then it happens. While weíre looking on and pretending to be having fun, she looks up with those big brown eyes of hers and, finally, cracks a smile to melt Antarctica. And then we finally know why we took her.


The smile is heart-warming, certainly, but here is the real reason we take her: an hour later, when she is tired of going round and we are out of cash, she will get in the car and I will drive everybody home. Then she will get into bed without complaining and sleep like a log and finally my sister, tired and broke but happy, can relax for the rest of the night.   


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