On the 2nd half of your monster truck road tripin the Toyota Tundra to celebrate your 3rd birthday, we stopped by an old abandoned amusement park, called Canyon Land Park, right outside my hometime in Fort Payne, AL. Here’s an old vintage postcard of the place in its prime:
In the likeness of the Dharma Initiative on Lost, this random amusement park thrived from around 1973 to circa 1983; until the place shut down. It even had a skylift that went over the canyon as well as a mini zoo featuring exotic animals!
Canyon Land Park has remained virtually untouched for 30 years.
The only exception I know of was exactly 20 years ago in October 1993, when my church’s youth group rented out the old (creepy) facility for a Halloween, for something called Hell House. (A Christian version of a spook house.)
One of the reasons I wanted to stop by the place is because exactly 40 years ago, Nonna and Papa (my parents) went on one of their first dates there.
It made sense to include what’s left of Canyon Land Park as part of this monster truck road trip, as it obviously had something to do with you and me even being here in the first place.
Turns out, there wasn’t a whole lot to see, as we parked the truck outside the rusted barb wire fence. I was able to make out what used to be a putt-putt golf course, but that was about it.
For all I know, there are black bears and wild hogs living in those old brick buildings that at one time brought in thousands of tourists. Maybe one day someone will purchase the land and make it the seemingly awesome and unique amusement park it once was.
I wish there would have been more to show you there, but at least the event served its purpose: to go off the beaten path in a “monster truck” and make an adventure of some things in life that most people don’t get to see every day.
We still had one more final stop on our monster truck road trip, though.
To be continued…
Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Toyota, for the purpose of reviewing.
For your last two birthdays, Mommy and I didn’t keep things simple.
We combined both friends and family to have an official birthday party, each time.
Even though our “family life” is so much more stabilized and easier than it was for the past two years, without giving it much thought, perhaps by default, Mommy and I decided to have a purposesly low key (!) birthday party for you.
So we did things a bit off beat…
First, on Saturday, the morning of your birthday, we had your first and best friend over, with her parents.
As this picture collage that Sophie’s parents made illustrates, you two had plenty of unscripted fun.
My favorite part to witness was when Sophie suggested, “Come on, Jack. Let’s go upstairs!”
So we all trekked up to your boy cave.
I’ve mentioned before, we have the top half of a rockasan in your bedroom that serves as a “boat.” You and Sophie had a great time giving each other rides in it.
And somehow, even though I was only feet away, I missed the moment when Sophie ended up with the toy basket on top of her head.
Of course, after lunch, both of you were in need of a nap, so the celebration came to an end, but not before we all had some of Mommy’s yummy vegan cupcakes!
After Sophie left, we aimed for a nap, which I think ended up turning into us watching part of Monsters, Inc. that Sophie got for you. (You now own your first Disney movie!)
Then later in the afternoon, we had two more of your friends up with their parents, and essentially repeated what happened earlier that day.
It wasn’t until just now, as I put these pictures together, that I realized only girls came to your birthday party.
(Your friend Troy was out of town and couldn’t make it, by the way.)
So it made it that much funnier that in the goody bags we gave to them, each friend received a Hot Wheels pick-up truck.
Yes, and that’s pretty much your 3rd birthday party. Of course, we’re going to spend next weekend with my family to celebrate your birthday with them… and I have a special surprise being shipped in from Atlanta… or I should say, driven in…
You’ll see what I mean in a couple days!
(Plus, I just have a feeling that to be so mellow about your 3rd birthday party, we will end up making up for it with your 4th birthday party.)
But I got addicted… and after that first time, I decided to officially change my format of writing about you, to where I write to you.
Exactly a year has passed since that night I sat at our coffee table and cried so hard, realizing my love for you.
Tonight, I’m less emotional in that sense. Instead, I’m feeling fully grounded in how I feel about you and how I understand my love for you.
Instead of a groundbreaking ephiphany, today I simply am grateful for the gift of peace of mind and heart; a gift the world can not give.
In this moment, that is my life. I think of that song, “On Top Of The World” by Imagine Dragons, to describe how I feel about you and me:
“I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay
Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I’m on top of the world.”
Every time we visit my parents’ house, you take back with you a few souvenirs.
Typically, they are my old Hot Wheels from when I was about your age in the mid 1980s.
You now have so many toy cars that you regularly ask me:
“Daddy, where’d I get this one? It was yours when you was a boy?”
I’ll look over and see an orange paint-chipped Gremlin or Snoopy driving a tow truck (that was before Mater was cool) and reply, “That’s right: Nana and Papa got me that one when I was a boy, like you.”
You are lucky that my parents didn’t give away any of my childhood toys. So each time you visit their house, you can try out and even walk away with anything on display in the 1980s museum I grew up in.
“Hey, that’s a Smurf car!” you so excitedly announced, holding a red car being driven by Smurfette.
I guess you didn’t realize that Smurfs are in their offical comeback phase- that at one time, they were 20 times cooler than they are right now.
You like to take my ’80s cars into school each morning, only to store them in your cubby all day. I take it as a compliment. It’s your way of taking a piece of me with you each day when I can’t be with you.
Sure, it’s been a few decades since I’ve been a boy, but I can totally relate to your excitement about toys- especially ones from the ’80s.
It also subconsciously points to something we share in common: boyhood.
You recognize that I’m an adult, but you understand the concept that I was once a boy who was a lot like you:
I was a boy with an orange Gremlin and a Snoopy tow truck.
I remember what it was like being about your age; thinking that spinning myself dizzy in the living room was like the coolest thing ever.
If I remember correctly, my parents would have to warn me to stop; mainly because they never knew what I was about to knock myself into and, therefore, knock over.
Well, that’s what’s new in your life right now. This is your “I want to see how dizzy I can get and still stand up” phase.
Sunday afternoon I watched you get the biggest thrill out of repeatedly spinning yourself dizzy as Thomas and Friends played in the background.
Again, I can relate to what you’re experiencing. That was me about 30 years ago. Now it’s you.
However, I think I killed enough brain cells doing it, that now, I can’t stand being dizzy.
It’s one of the most annoying things in the world, to me.
I get dizzy so easily that I nearly got dizzy following you around to take these pictures of you spinning. (Even just looking at these pictures is making me sort of dizzy!)
It was hard to get a good shot of you because you were spinning so fast!
But you’re a kid. You still think spinning around until you fall on the floor is a fun thing to do.
You might as well live it up, until you get your fill like I have.
Back in the 1980′s when I was a kid, there were such things as merry-go-rounds, which were a playground device that allowed several kids to spin on a moving wheel platform on the ground, while a few other kids pushed them as hard as they could.
Of course, I would always try to jump off while the merry-go-round was going its fastest. And I never got hurt.
I guess, though, some kids did, and their parents sued and won some good money. Because I haven’t seen a merry-go-round in about 20 years.
To everything there is a season. This is your season to be dizzy.