It’s my son’s “Happy Place”.
For the past seven years in June we’ve been taking the kids to Story Land amusement park in Glen, New Hampshire. Our first year was with just one kid. Now we’re a loud and rowdy family of five.
Story Land has become Howie’s place. Something clicked with him and this park when he was two. Before I even knew what a stim was, he would sit hunched over the map on our floor, rocking back and forth. He knew where every ride was, where the eating places were, and where the exit was (“X marks the spot”). He would talk about it constantly. And those nights before we discovered melatonin – when Howie would take hours to fall asleep and wake up at 2am screaming – Tim would take out his phone and scroll through the pictures of our previous trip. “See, that’s you on the flying shoes! And that’s you and Mom on the train. Look, that’s you driving a car.” Quietly and slowly, Howie would fall back to sleep again.
Every day he asks how many more “sleeps” until Story Land. And when I say every day, I mean every day. Three hundred and sixty days a year for the past three years. I’m subtracting out the days that we’re actually at the park. In the winter he asks how long before the snow melts and Story Land is open. In the spring he asks how long before the workers open up the park. In the summer he asks to show him on the calendar the number of the day that we’re going. And when we return, he asks when we’re going back.
Our trip up there was last week. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to understand him better, but I finally could see what he sees.
I saw a place where all three of my kids could ride on every ride.
I saw a place where stories come to life – not in a scary way with lots of people in costumes (because we don’t do people in costumes) – but in a nice gentle approach-if-you-want kind of way.
I saw a place where the kids didn’t have to hold my hand, but they could hold each other’s hands.
I saw a place where kids could drive their parents around in cars.
I saw a place that had food that was safe to eat, because they publish all of their food’s ingredients online so we knew what we could buy.
I saw a place where all three of my boys were happy. No fighting. No complaining about stimming or verbal outbursts. Happy. All at the same time. For three days straight.
I took a moment to look through the eyes of my five year old. What I saw was magic.
You can have Disney. We’ll take Story Land.
Three hundred and fifty five days until we go back.
"The sun will always shine where you stand Depending in which land You may find yourself. Now you have my blessing, go your way. Happiness runs in a circular motion Thought is like a little boat upon the sea. Everybody is a part of everything anyway, You can have everything if you let yourself be. Happiness runs, happiness runs. Happiness runs, happiness runs." - Happiness Runs by Donovan