Adventure #608: John and Coco’s Day of Fun
I am the godmother of your classic American 5-year old rapscallion, a boy named John Glynn III, son of my eldest sister, Shelley Marie. The day after he flew to Kansas City to reunite with the Owens family – my family – I took him on a whirlwind tour of the town and he reminded me how to be a kid again.
It all began rather simply, with a trip to the local grocery store and a ride on the mechanical horse in the entryway. This was a no-brainer. The horse had been around when I was John’s age. I would always try to persuade my parents to let me ride him but they would acquiesce to my pipsqueak demands only a fraction of the time. John was no different. I let him ride twice, just because I could, now that I held the reins.
The primary reason for the grocery store visit, however, had nothing to do with the horse. The horse was one of a series of spontaneous acts of whimsy to indulge John in a way only a godmother should.
John sat behind the wheel of a speed racer shopping cart and together we made our way over to the cereal aisle to pick out his favorite box. Money and sugar-content were no object.
“Froot Loops!” John knew exactly what he wanted. Looking over the wall of colorful breakfasts-in-a-box, I was amazed at how “dessert-y” many of the cereals were with names like “Smorz,” “Caramel Crunchfuls,” and “Double Chocolate Cookie Crisp.” I remember when Froot Loops were the peak of morning indulgences.
After breakfast, John scampered into the back seat and I drove him to our next undisclosed location, the second stop on Coco and John’s Day of Fun, Loose Park. For all those readers who have never traveled to Kansas City, Central Park is to New York City and Lincoln Park is to Chicago, as Loose Park is to Kansas City.
There was no better time to visit than mid-May. With 70 degrees and a clear sky, the park was ambushed with park-goers, and John knew exactly where to go – the playground – where about 80 children ran around with hands flailing, laughing, screaming, while a band of mothers encircled the chaos.
John monkeyed around the equipment like a gentlemen, always stopping to let little ladies take the slide before himself. His kindly manner, however, was unusual for playground protocol. I observed a tyrannical band of little boys blazing a trail of fire across the bridge, one after the other, until I saw the mother of the leader swoop in to break up the motley gang.
John and I walked over to the rose garden on the hill-top where local brides frequent. This stop was more for me than the five-year old, who found the only compelling element a stone wall surrounding the garden he could climb. When I could convince him to sit still, I snapped pseudo-artsy instagram photos of him (pictured here) to commemorate the occasion. Every hour was a bitter-sweet reminder of how precious the time together truly was, given that he lives in Arizona with his mom and dad.
We walked to a nearby bench and I pulled out the box of Ben and Jerry fruit snacks I had purchased for him at the store. Though he originally wanted the Transformers fruit snacks, a robust “BEN AND JERRY!” (pronounced Jeywy, because he’s five) convinced me this was the most important purchase of the day for the little guy.
The final planned stop on Coco and John’s Day of Fun would bring us to Brookside’s legendary Reading Reptile, the bookstore my parents had taken my siblings and I as kids. This independent bookstore is particularly coveted in the community because it caters solely to children. From the ceiling hangs paper-mache characters from classic children’s fiction. And though the place is cozy in size, it boasts multiple nooks and stages for children to play in, under, or around. Reading Reptile also houses a unique selection of old-school children’s books.
I gave John Caps For Sale (1938) and George and Martha (1974). John picked them out from a pile of 30 books. I sprawled out a selection in front of him on the play doh table as he was too distracted to concentrate on the bookshelves.
That, and he made a little friend, a girl who was equally as enthralled with the playscape. A bookstore? What bookstore?
On the drive back home, John was falling asleep in the back. But passing by the largest fountain in Kansas City – the Ward Parkway Fountain – I felt one last spontaneous urge to pull over.
“Where (pronounced wheyw) are we going?” He asked, smiling and exhausted.
I grabbed his hand and together we ran across the busiest road in the city to the giant fountain where I would take my favorite picture of all time [see first picture].
John, partial to climbing rock walls and running around them, jogged the perimeter of the fountain until coming to a full stop and sitting down. I found a lady bug on his knee and told him to count her dots to discover her age. The ladybug was six.
“Finding a ladybug on you is good luck, you know?”
He looked up at me with a look of wonder on his face.
And THAT, I thought, is how I will end this Day of Fun. I had wanted to give him a taste of the childhood I had grown up with – his mother had grown up with – an amalgam of planned and spontaneous adventuring, reading, running, meeting other children, Froot Loops, horse rides, and family member to guide you through it all while holding you hand.