It was 9am, Saturday and the Johnsons were overdue for some-sort-of adventure. ‘We need to get out,’ I told the professor, ‘the boys can’t spend another day playing Lego in the basement.’
Which, of course, was not a factual statement. The boys could indeed spend another day playing Lego in the basement, but I felt like it would be detrimental to their health to do so. Something about sunlight, exercise, ‘fresh’ air and all that. The professor acquiesced – ish. And I hatched a little plan.
A friend had mentioned a sunflower maze an hour north of the city, on Facebook. It seemed like a win-win kind of idea: I like flowers, the professor likes to drive and don’t children like ‘mazes’ of any kind? As it turned out, this particular maze was half an hour from the Red Deer bookstore that sold these cookies. And the bookstore was half an hour from this cheese shop. And the planets were lining up for all kinds of six-degrees-of-separation familial fun.
We headed north on the Deerfoot, which was a first in and of itself as we’d never been farther north than the Cross Iron Mills Shopping Mall. Apparently we hadn’t missed much because this particular stretch of the Deerfoot won’t make it onto any ‘Alberta’s top scenic drives’ shortlists any time soon.
The boys – all four of them – were pretty good in the car. Pointing out interesting sights. Making observations. [Not sitting in a basement surrounded by tiny pieces of colored plastic.] Finally, after about 90 minutes of driving (the ‘one hour’ estimate seems to have been taken from the northernmost tip of Calgary to exit 357 – anything more counts as ‘free-time’, apparently) we arrived. There was some excitement in the air – ‘the allure of the maze’ – but there was also…hunger.
The muffins I’d brought along for the ride had been consumed in Calgary, before the professor was able to shift the van gears to ‘Drive’. I’d made the crucial error of not packing any extra snacks (other than a little bag of sour candies). I had water, but not food.
I forked over twenty-some dollars so we five could frolic in the maze and…off we went. For thirty minutes or so, the Johnsons traipsed around a dirt path lined by enormous on-the-verge-of-death sunflowers. The older boys ran ahead. The professor toddled along with young Percy. And I trailed behind, snapping pictures of the fun.
Next thing I knew, we were ‘done’ and the boys were heading back to the animal enclave housing some miniature horses, donkeys, chickens, rabbits and a lazy pig. What? The woman had said it would take an hour and a half – and here we were just leaving? Just done with the maze?
Those who’d been merely hungry half an hour earlier, were now starving. And we were at least thirty minutes from our ‘cookie’ destination. So I had no recourse but to buy Pringles and Reese’s Cups, which they inhaled in less than thirty seconds.
And then we climbed back in the car, headed to Red Deer, to the soundtrack of ‘how many more minutes’ and ‘I’m so hungry’, accompanied by unhappy fatherly sighs in the front. Good times, indeed.
After a ridiculous detour we arrived at the bookstore and I ran inside with the older boys since Percy was sleeping in the car. Also, I did not want to make the professor get out of the car – in the off chance the bookstore cafe didn’t sell any food.
Turns out there was a sad little roast beef sandwich sitting in the cooler, but it didn’t look like anything the Johnson boys would want to eat. So I grabbed three of those precious pumpkin-maple cookies and bought the boys some sort of nasty butterscotch colored bar filled with rainbow mini marshmallows. And a chocolate chip cookie for my better half. Just to tide him over.
When I hopped into my seat with an armful of cookies, the professor gave me the look of death. As if to say ‘we just stopped for food and all you bought were cookies?!’ I directed him to the nearest Wendy’s and we pulled into the drive-thru. ‘What do you want?’ he asked the boys. ‘What is this, junk food day?’ the Gort opined from the back. My little hall-monitor-in-training who actually declined a treat at a friend’s house ‘because I’ve already had enough treats this week.’
‘You can leave out the ‘food’ part of that sentence,’ the professor grumbled.
‘But I got sick last time I ate at Wendy’s,’ the Gort worried aloud. True, we’d all felt ill the last time we consumed Wendy’s food. ‘Well, it probably won’t happen again,’ the professor guessed-hoped. Rather optimistically.
I opted to consume three ‘chicken’ nuggets, figuring it was safer to eat the cookies I’d just bought. The professor ate a hamburger. And the boys ate a few french fries, drank chocolate milk and played with the crappy plastic toys inside their kids’ meals.
After our lunch break, the professor hopped out of the car and ordered me into the driver’s seat; tired of driving and eating bad food and running around sunflower mazes. I sensed my once-auspicious alignment of adventure-planets had crumbled and opted to steer the car south, to Calgary, rather than northwest to Sylvan Lake.
My better half sat in the passenger seat, his finger resting upon the automatic window button ready to depress it at a moment’s notice, certain he was about to toss his proverbial cookies.
‘So, did you have fun,’ I asked the boys, in between their chorus of ‘how many more kilometres’ and ‘I can’t wait to get home to play with Lego’.
‘I didn’t like the sunflower or the corn maze,’ my oldest decided. ‘I only liked the hay maze.’
Ah, the maze in front of the shop. The one that is free and takes exactly ten seconds to complete. That maze.
At least I’d had fun.