Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2: Exploratorium Edition

This Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. Well, there was the small hitch of the meal sending my mother to our couch for the majority of the afternoon with stomach cramps. Who knew she wouldn’t like my famous Strychnine dressing?

Elijah was an angel. He sat through lots of hair tussling and unwanted hugs. And he napped through the actual meal. So as far as he knows, the Pilgrims and Indians shared cheese hot dogs at the first Thanksgiving.

But his angel like behavior won him a treat on Friday. A visit to the Skokie Community Center Exploratorium. Diana swears by the place. From her description, it sounded like a cross between Disney World and Disney Land. I imagined costumed performers and merry-go-rounds and experiments where you get to blow your eyebrows off. And for some reason I imaged belly dancers. I decided to take him myself so Diana could catch up on work. And I wanted to see the belly dancers.

We arrived and I paid a grand total of $4 for the two of us. The overly cheery woman behind the desk directed us to the Community Center’s basement where lots of hand made signs alerted us to the fact we were entering the Exploratorium.

The $4 entrance fee should have tipped me off. The Exploratorium was essentially the basement of your richest friend. There was a broken train set, several plastic riding things, a leaky tub filled with moldy plastic things and a stage with a costume closet that looked like it had been hit by a mortar attack.

But based on Elijah’s enthusiastic wriggling out of my arms and his shouts of, “Doon doon,” I decided to give it the old college try.

The thing is, The Exploratorium’s awesomeness comes from the fact that it is essentially the basement of your richest friend. Can’t afford to buy a train set? Go visit Mr. And Mrs. Exporatorium. House not big enough to crash a plastic airplane in? The Exploratoriums are happy to have you over. Building code won’t allow you to build a waterfall in your basement? You have a standing invitation at the Exploratoriums. Afraid wearing a dress will turn your boy into a ballet dancer? Mr. and Mrs. Exploratorium won’t tell. So I donned a plastic fireman hat and followed Eli as he howled with delight.

The coolest slash scariest slash coolest part of the Exploratorium was the massive climbing structure. It was basically a McDonald’s Playland without the thick coating of McRib sauce. There were huge tubes running across the ceiling and children were scrambling over it like spider monkeys. Occasionally a child would scream, “Mom! Help!” And the poor kid’s mother, unwilling or unable to climb the structure, would eventually have to leave the child to live among the tube people.

Of course Eli wanted to climb it. But it was just a bit beyond his ability. To access the Tubes, you have to climb a series of big padded levels around 3 feet high. Eli would take a running start and hurl himself into the padded step, scramble like a crab and then fall back to the ground. Meanwhile, hundreds of children would scramble up the steps over, around and through him.

It reminded me of the scene in “Full Metal Jacket” when Private Pile got stuck on the basic training wall while the other recruits lapped him again and again.

Eventually, with me pushing him from diaper level, Eli ascended to the first level. He rolled over onto his back and gasped, “Bye bye.” I scooped him up and took him home for a well-deserved nap.

I am truly thankful for that little guy.

No comments: