My oldest son, Elijah, turned 8 this past Sunday. For weeks Robin had asked him, "Elijah, what do you want to do for your birthday?" But we got no response. Sunday rolled around, and he still hadn't given us any idea of what we could do for his birthday.
So about mid-afternoon I hinted that he and I should go 'play' later on. So while Robin distracted Noah and Jacob, Elijah and I headed off to his favorite spot - Peter Piper's Pizza.
A Chuck E. Cheese on steroids, no one goes to Peter Piper to eat...you go to play...and play...and play. It really is a wonderful establishment, but a guy can drop $20 on one kid in nothing flat.
Elijah and I went in with a plan. He still had over 500 tickets from his last visit to PPP
, but he needed a total of 1,000 to bring home the ultimate prize...a Dallas Mavericks teddy bear (one, by the way, a person could purchase for $10 at Wal
-Mart!). But the joy is in the hunt, right? And we were in good company this night...as it seemed EVERY youth baseball and soccer team was having its end-of-the-year gathering at Peter Piper's.
So with tokens in hand we begin our quest. We played everything from Whack-A-Mole's cousin "Whack-A-Shark," "Jumping Jackpot" (an electronic jump rope
-ball" (a carnival room favorite) and other assorted money-sucking festivities. When the money budgeted for the evening had been spent we redeemed our tickets. When added to the 500+ tickets Elijah accumulated on his last visit we had 919 tickets.
My tired 8-year old stared into his father's tired eyes. "Guess we'll have to get that bear next time," I said...knowing full well how that statement would go over.
Elijah's bottom lip started to quiver. He stared down at the ticket receipts in his hand. "We only need 81 more," he said softly.
"Wow," I thought, "he's getting good at math!" How could I resist a kid that figured that out so quickly!
"Okay," I said, "I've got two more dollars. But after that we're leaving." He agreed, and we began to devise a plan to come up with 81 tickets using only 8 tokens. Earlier in the evening, as we were playing Skee
-ball, I hearkened back to my days at the Fort Worth Stock Show Midway. I was maybe ten years old when an old man showed me that, if you hit the incline of the ramp just right, the ball would almost always shoot into the 10,000 point slot. I tried it a handful of times while Elijah and I were playing and found that I was fairly decent at that technique.
So I said, "Elijah, let's go try Skee
-ball. If I can get a perfect score that'll
give us 50 tickets with just one token." He agreed and off we waded through the mass of children.
Elijah watched anxiously as I put in a token. The spherical ammunition slid into position as the target loomed ominously in the distance. I selected my first orb, positioned my body to the far left of the ramp, and let my first shot fly. The ball hit exactly where I had hoped, arced through the night, and landed precisely in the 10,000 point slot.
"YES!" Elijah exclaimed, and quickly handed me a second ball. Again I positioned myself as far to the left I could and sent my second shot on its way. Just as before it landed precisely in the 10,000 point slot. Elijah is beside himself, jumping up and down already feeling that teddy bear in his arms.
The third shot, fourth shot and fifth shot all followed suit. Five balls - five perfect shots. As I selected the sixth ball I noticed a handful of kids had gathered around to watch the drama unfolding. Trying to be nonchalant about
the whole situation I let number six fly. As I did so, Elijah exclaimed, "My dad is going for a perfect score!" Right on cue, shot number six landed in the 10,000 point slot.
A cheer went up behind me. I turned and saw no less than 20 kids all standing around watching...watching ME! My mouth instantly went dry, my hands began to sweat, and a panic leaped
into my heart - the same panic that grips the heart of every married man when his wife heads to the Mall the morning after Thanksgiving.
I reached for ball #7, fully aware that I had become the main attraction. I went through the same motions as I had the six previous times. As my arm rocked back it was as though the entire game room
fell silent...and then erupted as the seventh shot found its perfect mark.
Elijah's grin made The Joker's look mild as he anxiously handed me ball #8. As I turned to take it from him I now noticed not only kids standing around...but their parents had joined the fray as well. As before, the multitude grew silent as ball #8 left my hand...and, again, erupted as my perfect score remained.
Now I know both of you reading this are hanging on the edge of your seats...so I'll spare you the drama. Yeah - I made the 9th
shot, too. And the crowd cheered. And parents and children wept as they embraced - I had created a rallying point for parent-child relationships.
Okay...I made that last part up.
But I DID get a perfect score. Then out came the tickets...all 50 of them. No sooner had Elijah rolled them up and stuck them in his pocket than that inevitable cry came up...
"Do it again, dude!"
Not wanting to disappoint my adoring fan club I quickly grabbed another token, placed it in the machine, and began my quest for additional perfection.
It would've been wise to remember the old theatre adage
: "Always leave your audience wanting more"...as my first shot careened wildly into the 1,000 point slot. And then it was as if someone had thrown up in the middle of the group...as the crowd instantly scattered.
But for a mere moment in time...I WAS...the Skee
-ball King of Peter Piper's Pizza. "So I got that going for me.......which is nice."
p.s. Oh yeah...and Elijah DID get his bear (sorry...I forgot that it's not all about me - ha!).