While getting my nails done on a Saturday morning my cell phone started receiving multiple texts. Since my fingers were occupied I had someone get it out so I could read the texts. Our son wanted to know if I would like to meet the girls (ages10 and 6) at the Denver Aquarium for the afternoon. Of course I wanted to do it so as soon as I could I let him know “definitely YES.”
We met around 1 pm. First we had to review the ticket options, the base price, the next level with one or two add-ons, or the highest priced one with three add-ons. Of course they chose the most expensive one.
Before I could get to the ticket window the 10- year-old managed to trip and cut her hand and knee and was very upset. Normally I am prepared with an ample supply of Band-Aids, but having left home in a rush I only had one tiny one with me. The ticket seller directed us to an office where she could get some first aid and larger Band-Aids. Things were looking up.
After that, we followed some complicated directions to get back to the entrance. When we got there two options awaited us to get to the exhibits: an escalator or an elevator. I did not see any steps. The 10- year-old wanted to take the escalator, but the 6-year-old is afraid of escalators. She wanted to take the elevator, but the older child has never been comfortable on elevators. After considerable balking and discussing, the younger child took my hand and the three of us headed to the exhibits.
About 10 minutes later the younger one announced that she was very hungry. Part of her “hunger” was precipitated by the fact that the next exhibit area seemed scary to her. But we retraced our steps and found some stairs, leading back down this time.
To get to the restaurant we had to pass through the gift shop. Going to a gift shop with these two is always a challenge. (I know from my previous museum career that “crowd flow” is part of the marketing strategy.)
We finally managed to get to the café without buying anything in the museum gift shop but learned that we had missed the last afternoon performance by the mermaids by just a few minutes. They recovered from their disappointment and it was time to order lunch. The 6-year- old ordered two mini-burgers and fries from the kids’ menu. The 10- year-old ordered a cheese steak and fries from the adult menu plus a Sprite. I ordered a cup of soup, figuring there would be plenty left over for my lunch.
The meals came and the 6-year-old ate one burger and all of her fries. The 10- year-old took one bite of her cheese steak and spat it out, telling me it was awful. I tried a bite; it seemed okay to me. She did not try the fries and did not eat any more of the cheese steak and she thought the Sprite tasted funny. She then suggested I ask for a refund. I told her that I would not do that, and that I would just eat some of her meal. In the meantime the 6-year-old could not finish hers so I ate the second burger.
A couple more times the 10-year-old suggested I get a refund. Finally she said that if I got a refund she could then spend that amount in the gift shop. Again I refused but when the waitress came to check on us I told her that the older child did not like her food. When we got our check the manager had decided not to charge us for the uneaten food.
I was able to convince them we would visit the gift shop later, but the dilemma now was to get back up to the exhibits. This time the 10-year-old agreed to go on the elevator although she looked terrified.
For the add-ons, the 6-year-old had chosen face painting and, although it only entailed someone holding a stencil against her cheek and spraying on some paint, it was successful. The 10-year-old had chosen to feed the stingrays but when she looked at the cut up pieces of raw fish she almost gagged so we turned those back in. The attendant gave her a ticket to get a drink instead. Neither girl decided to do the climbing tree add-on because it was very high and they felt they did not have on the proper shoes.
Since that did not work out we decided to go to the 4-D movie, our third add-on, which was in a different building. We all enjoyed it even though I screamed louder than anyone else when the giant spider almost landed on my face. Upon reentry we once again faced the challenge of getting up to the exhibit level. The 10-year-old immediately took off up the escalator, but the 6-year-old started crying because she wanted to take the elevator. We had to wait in line for it and when we finally got off her sister was nowhere in sight.
You can imagine my panic and fear when I realized that we had become separated. Being desperate I flagged down a staff person (they were few and far between) who offered to help me hunt for her. Fortunately about that time she appeared in tears and hugged me saying she waited at the top of the escalator but had left to go looking for us.
Back to the exhibits. This time we entered the exhibits from an opposite end because the 10-year-old wanted to see the sharks, but her younger sister was terrified of looking at them. A standoff ensued and both of them ended up crying. I joined in by going, “Waa, Waa, Waa.” That got their attention and they calmed down a bit although the three of us got some strange looks. I decided I would stay with the 6-year-old but could still keep the 10-year-old in sight while she took my phone into the shark area to take a video to show me the sharks.
Knowing the video was on my phone upset the younger sister again, and the 10-year-old got more upset because she wanted to see the tigers and the only way to get there was through the shark exhibit. It was after four o’clock so I decided to call my son to come rescue us. Now we headed back down a staircase that took us back into the gift shop and the exit. He was to meet us at the door. The 10-year-old then had a dramatic meltdown and started coughing and feeling dizzy because she could not decide what to buy. I kept increasing what they could spend but having already spent over $70 to get in and about $25 for lunch, I told each girl they could only spend $10. About that time their dad arrived. So I suggested he take the younger daughter to the car so that the 10-year-old and I could finish the exhibits. We could do the gift shop later.
That turned out to be a great idea. I got to spend some time visiting with my daughter-in-law and almost two-month-old granddaughter for a few minutes while he loaded the 6-year-old into the car.
The big sister and I reentered via the escalator. She was calm and cooperative and knew the names of many fish and animals in the exhibits. Sadly, the tigers were in their den so we did not get to see them. After our time in the exhibits we all met in the gift shop. I could see that it would be taking a long time for decisions to be made so I handed $20 to my son and took off for Fort Collins.
WHEW! It was a great day, all in all, but I was exhausted and enjoyed my drive home peacefully listening to the Denver classical station. For future visits I will convince my husband to come along and we can each manage one granddaughter as we go our separate routes. Please note that names have been omitted to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.
Fran Green grew up in western Virginia, graduated from The College of William and Mary and followed a career path into retail buying and management. She and her husband Bob moved to Fort Collins in 2013 to be closer to their son and his family, including 3 granddaughters. She and Bob have always been dog people. She is also a goat person, a musician and, when she finds the time, she writes.