Carol Jane Remsburg
For over the last month Erin had talked of little else besides her Pokemon Gameboy and our annual hayride into the 'Haunted Forest.' "How much were the tickets? What time should we leave? Will it be really scary this time?" Her stream of questions seemed endless, but remained focused on the ride.
The hayride is an annual event held by a local small town volunteer fire department. It's their largest fund-raiser of the year and folks come from miles around for the ride. The festivities span the week just prior to Halloween.
I had decided that we would go on the last night of the event, a Saturday evening. We left home early hoping to beat the crowd. Apparently so had others. The swell of people continued to grow long after we took our place in line.
The day had been bright and breezy with only a hint of coolness. It had been a perfect sort of day to spend outdoors. Now that darkness had fallen and the temperatures fell likewise. The breeze became a wind that seemed to enjoy biting us through our thick jackets. It's playfulness later turned malevolent.
With about forty people ahead of us, we all waited restlessly for the lady to begin exchanging the cash for those small, generic tickets. I stood to one side attempting to block the badgering bluster of air from my daughter.
Finally, the line began to move. We managed to purchase our tickets and get inside the fire hall where they had set up an awkward but workable zigzag cue with the bright yellow caution tape used by the emergency workers. Erin's restlessness became more pronounced.
Human nature is human nature. For a ten year-old to suddenly discover what the physics of cold weather will do to a bladder while standing in line for an event she's waited months to experience wasn't a welcome revelation. With tortured eyes and a shifting body, we made the decision to step out of line for the nature call. To make matters worse, the fire hall's facilities were currently out of order. But there were portable toilets around back.
Erin was torn. She wanted to go on this hayride but she also dreaded even the thought of using the portable toilet. She didn't just dread it. She was terrified of it along with being mortified about having to go. And while she was thrilled with the idea of being frightened by people dressed up in costumes, this sort of fear was different. Her desire for the ride won out. Erin discovered that a portable toilet wasn't as frightening as she thought.
We strolled back and to the end of the line that now surrounded the building. The wind and the cold continued. Erin stood within my embrace as I kept my back to the wind. She put her hands in my jacket pockets to keep them from going numb. We shuffled a few feet forward every now and again. It seemed as though we would stand there in the dark among the murmuring crowd forever.
Eventually we did manage to get back inside the fire hall—about an hour or more later. There we stood, just about where we had before when the whole thing began again. She was twitching and tears were welling up. There was no way we were going to make it.
I told her it was her decision to make. She made it and I was thankful because the cold had worked its magic on me by that time as well. Home we went with two unused tickets still in my jacket pocket. Back within our warm four walls, we curled up in my bed, each with a book.
Shortly before she rousted herself upstairs and to her own bed for the night, Erin looked over at me with such open love and thanked me. Although our time together on that outing had mostly been spent waiting for something we never got to enjoy, we'd been together and helped to keep each other warm with snuggles and giggles. Now, that, was just the ticket after all.