"Daddy! Look! A teddy bear!"
This is our "start of summer" tradition, me and Olivia. It used to be called "Andrews Air Force Base Open House." Nowadays it's called the "JSOC Air Show." It's one of the biggest air shows (airshows) on the Eastern seaboard. This is our "fourth annual." But that's not what's really important, this time.
"Yes, Olivia, but it's early." Really early. We LIKE really early with this airshow, because it seems like half the Eastern seaboard shows up for it. Except for this time, since we finally got smart enough to leverage our good friend Chris with a DOD clearance to take us out on Friday. But that's not what's really important, this time.
"No, daddy, really! Look! A teddy bear!"
It was 9:30. In the morning. There were, I kid you not, two MILES of vendors to patrol, as she looked with greed at this vendor's tent. I didn't even really see the dratted thing, but I knew an opportunity. So, finally I get to teach Olivia this lesson AGAIN.
"Ok, that's great. But there's so much to look at. We know where this vendor is. We'll come back, when the airshow is over."
And, miracle of miracles, she said, "OK!"
Now, she's still not-quite 9, and for the rest of the airshow she was a GENUINE pain in the ass when she figured out what would get her what she wanted.
"I want to sit down! I want to sit down! I want to sit down! Iwanttositdown! You know, I won't badger you anymore if you let me sit down!"
"Ice cream! Ice cream ice cream ice creamice creamicecreamicecream I won't badger you anymore..."
"Camera! Cameracameracameracameracameracameracameracameracamera I won't badger you anymore..."
And finally I boiled over. "FINE!!!! YOU WANT THIS CAMERA, HERE!!! HAVE IT!!!" Chris even looked up, I guess to make sure he'd know which way her head was going to pop off as I threw the strap over her. You know, so he could catch it. Camera, head, at that point I didn't care.
But she didn't mention that bear. Because she (finally) knew that, by waiting she'd get it, no questions asked. She knew I'd made a promise. Little kids forget those sorts of promises. You stay calm, and they get distracted, and it's like ice melting into a drain. Big kids remember, and break a little when they realize their parents have forgotten. I knew that, from all the cracks I carry to this day.
So, after all the hours of baking sun and thwirring propellers and frightening thunder and one helluva performance by Olivia's favorite Blue Angels, we were done. And Olivia says, "Now we can go get my bear!"
Ok. That's fine. I guess I have a big kid now. Easy enough. Back in the day, there would be a HUGE fight that would include me, my dad, my mom, my brother (who only wanted the same thing I did) just because the vendor was, literally, a mile away. But *I* was going to be the big man, not make the same mistake. It's just a walk.
"Ok, Olivia, let's go."
It was only as we were walking toward that quite far distant vendor stand, "BLUE ANGELS SOUVENIRS," that I realized my lesson was boomeranging right back at me. Right in the teeth.
The vendor stand? The only one I remember with that damned bear? Over a two mile strip? The one *I* made her walk past, to teach some stupid lesson?
Yeah. It was closed. Covered up with the black plastic that smothered my dreams of being a decent dad.
Olivia saw it just after I did. It was like someone had put a hair dryer over her head. She literally started to melt.
Chris saved us both. "Hey, Olivia! There's another Blue Angels booth!"
Sure enough, if I dodged my head under the C-17 to our left, I could see that same banner. And they were still open!
Now, I'm not one to be arrogant about being saved. No sauntering here. "Olivia! Maybe you should go run, and make sure they have your bear!"