Last year, we ventured across the city to Kerrisdale to the rec centre there that offers a Play Palace each summer, repleat with several bouncy castles, a toddler play area, umpteen wobbly wheely bike things, foozball, basketball, and table hockey. At least, I think it’s called table hockey. You know, the table with the rods lined up with little plastic hockey players with their hands mooshed to their sides and their legs stuck together? You furiously spin the rods and slide them back and forth and hope that those little plastic legs meet with the ball and send it into the goal? Something like that anyway. I’m not into table hockey, so I don’t actually have a clue what I’m talking about here.
And Esmé — as of last year — was not into bouncy castles. She had this idea (at two and a half) that she should like them though, and so she tried to get excited about them. Olivia and Finlay, two of her best friends, have loved bouncy castles for as long as we’ve know them. Olivia’s dad even seeks them out when they’ve got nothing else to do. Esmé first got her courage up to get into one at the Honey Bee Festival out in Surrey last year. After about six seconds of crawling around and trying to get her footing while the other kids gleefully upset said footing with their bouncing, she found her way to the entrance and clambored out and cried for the next twenty minutes.
Not long after that, another friend invited us to Kerrisdale, with the promise of more bouncy castles. The offer was made with such enthusiasm that once again Esmé figured she should like bouncy castles. So off we went, because who am I to decide when she’d all of a sudden decide that bouncy castles were the coolest thing ever? This time, she yanked off her shoes and ran after her friend as he jumped right in. Two seconds later, she was out and in tears once more.
This year, she overheard Olivia talking about the Kerrisdale bouncy castles and declared that she wanted to go. Alright, like I said before, every day is a new day, and she had been in a bouncy castle at a recent Canada Day celebration and at a local church fair. It wasn’t her favourite thing ever, but she did it and was proud of it to boot.
So we packed a snack, got on the number #20 bus up to 41st, waited in the blazing sun for the UBC bus to come along and take us to the rec centre. On the way there, I said nothing about her previous bouncy castle encounters or what might come of this time. Esmé chattered on about how excited she was, about the bouncy castles in particular. When we got there, she ran ahead and kicked off her shoes and headed straight for the biggest bouncy castle of all. She boinged and jostled her way straight to the other side and promptly got out with a frown on her face. ”I don’t think I like bouncy castles very much, Mama.”
“That’s okay, bud.” Esmé took my hand and led me to the toddler area, which has the smallest of the bouncy castles. ”You might change your mind.”
“It’s been a long time since I haven’t like them though.” She hopped up onto bouncy pirate ship and plopped herself down beside a baby who was lying on his back chewing his foot. “Nope. I don’t really like this one either. I think I’ll just do other stuff instead.” And she did. She found a bridge to be an evil troll under while Hawksley and I played two billy goats Gruff. That game went on for the better part of an hour and a half. Then she tried the red wobbly bike thingy for five minutes, and then she was ready to go home. ”It’s not my favourite place, Mama. It’s okay if we don’t come again.”
And maybe we won’t. But maybe we will. Because Hawksley loved every square inch of the place. And we can always play billy goats Gruff for another couple of hours out of the hot sun in a place where he can wander freely without getting cedar chip slivers in his knees. That’s worth the price of admission alone.