Despite coming home after midnight, we found ourselves waking up early to get out to Coney Island. In retrospect, it seems a little a random and crazy but it was Memorial Day, the last day of a long weekend, and the start of summer vacation season. After a harsh winter, we wanted to kick it off right. It didn’t matter that don’t normally go to Coney Island, we aren’t beach people, or that the boardwalk would be congested with people who did and were. We told ourselves the boys would have fun. How bad could it be?
But why Coney Island? Ok, fair question. My brother-in-law was playing in the 2010 All-Star Game at MCU Park, the minor league baseball stadium in Coney Island. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up with my sister and let the boys spend some time with their cousin Lucas. And so we trekked out to the downtrodden but historic landmark neighborhood.
Ismaeel was thrilled to drive on the Belt Parkway and point out the boats along the way. It actually took us more time to park than to drive there. Nevertheless, we soon caught up with everyone and started the day with some over-priced and over-greased fried food from the boardwalk. From there, we headed towards Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. So far so good.
The boys were eager to ride the little helicopters on the Mini Enterprise. My sister raced to buy a book of tickets and the boys wiggled and waited for their turn. Ismaeel excitedly pointed out the blue one that he wanted to go in. And it was all ours but somehow (due to a lack of naps and waiting too long for the ride to fill) both boys started wailing before the ride even began. And so, four adults and one hungry infant were soon trying their best to wave and cheer up the two sobbing toddlers having “fun” on the helicopters. There is a particular pain point (when the ride becomes about 45 seconds too long) where the parents sadly mirror the very same wiggling their children had been doing to get on the now-traumatic ride. The ride ends and the moms and dads rush the gates to retrieve the broken souls formerly known as their children. The more voluptuous parents try to comfort their not-so-little ones with promises of hot dogs and cotton candy while the rest (with some 18 tickets to go) try to garner enthusiasm for the next ride. And so we set our sights on the Carousel, Big (Monster) Trucks, Sea Serpent Roller Coaster, and the Rio Grande Train.
All in all, the boys cheered up and enjoyed the rides (particularly the roller coaster) but a day at the amusement park can be an exhausting experience as a parent. Let’s just say Coney Island is not the most organized of places. Navigating crowds with a nap-deprived toddler is always tough but on the boardwalk you find yourself wading through more tattooed and exposed flesh (under the always classy and torn neon colored mesh “cover-ups”) than you ever imagined possible. But my simple priority was trying to help Ismaeel avoid being shoved from people who don’t understand the social norms of a queue or from receiving additional cigarette ash in his eye from the smokers who thought he was their personal ashtray.
My real favorite moment of our boardwalk crowd experience was when I became the freak, wonder, and human curiosity. A man holding hands with his ladylove (a near morbidly obese woman wearing more patches of sand than clothing) decided to heckle me for wearing a light cardigan and jeans saying “Mami, it ain’t gonna snow today”. My husband and I laughed at this - not quite understanding why it bothered him when he had his hands on so much hot delicious cake. And besides, my exposed toes and flip-flops were indeed beach appropriate. But I guess it doesn’t count unless your pedicure is chipped. Sigh.
We took this as a signal that we experienced enough early summer at Coney Island. We watched Lucas cool off with the palm tree sprinkler on the beach and said our goodbyes. As we packed up the boys in the cars, I texted my sister that we all had fun. And we really did. We just need to think long and hard before waking up early to head back…