Four months ago, my family and I stepped off the plane in Portland, OR and began our week-long summer vacation in the place of my husband’s birth. For a month prior, and all the way on the plane trip our (nearly) three-year-old son could not stop talking about the dinosaurs he was going to see at the Oregon State Fair. “We’re going to Oregon to see DINOSAURS”, he would tell anyone who would listen. “When do we get to go to Oregon to see Dinosaurs?”, he would ask every night before bed. On the rental-car ride to the town where Grandma Farm lives, he would say, “Are we almost at the Dinosaurs?”
And then the day came. Grandma Farm, Daddy, Mommy, two cousins and Garrett piled into the car for the two-hour-drive which consisted of several choruses of “Dinosaur this” and “Dinosaur that” and “Dinosaur, Dinosaur”, just for good measure.
Then we arrived. The fair. We were starving. We ate. We hurried because the dinosaurs were waiting. We finished. Where are they? That building! Let’s go! Oh, really? More money here than we paid at the entrance to the fair? This must be good! Doors open. Roars are heard. There they are, around the corner! This is it! The moment we’ve talked about for months!
What’s happening with Garrett? Why is he convulsing? Are those giant tears? Garrett? G…G…Garrett? “I don’t want to see those dinosaurs! I want to go! Let’s get out of here!” But Garrett. Honey? This is what we’ve been taking abou… “Listen, Bitch! You get me the hell out of this place NOW, or I’m gonna do some pretty crazy SHIT!” Whoa. Slow down, boy. That is some pretty abrasive langua…. “What part of ‘get me out of here’ don’t you UNDERSTAND? Turn your shit around and move it!”
Listen, I don’t know who taught a three-year-old how to talk like that, but I guess the dinosaurs really brought it out of him. I mean there they were, these giant, animatronic dinos in a pretty dark room, roaring and carrying on. It was a tad scarier than I had imagined, too. But this is what we had been going on and on about for friggin’ months! He’ll get over it, I thought. He just needs a little potty break and it’ll all be okay. In the bathroom, there was more: “Are we going to have to pass the dinosaurs again?” Yes, Garrett, to get to the exit. But you don’t have to look and we won’t go in. “I don’t want to pass them!” I told him I’d hold him close and we’d walk by fast. So, we exit the bathroom and we’re about to go past the room with all the dinosaurs again. “NO, MOMMY”, he screams! And then, before I can stop him, he looks in. And through giant tears he screams, “A PTERODACTYL! A T-REX! AN IGUANODON!” (This kid knows his dinosaurs). “LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!”
So, that was our whole Oregon Dinosaur Experience. Garrett sobbed and screamed from outside the doors and saw three of his favorites from 40-feet away, while begging me to take him out of the building. He still talks about it like it was the best day ever.
Which brings us to today. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Just like when we were going to Oregon, we prepped for this day. I showed him videos of the fossils and the 10:30 AM Dinosaur Experience show they put on, where a giant T-Rex, with a guy inside, walks around the Mammal Pavilion and helps you learn about dinos. He was pumped. PUMPED! “When are we going to the museum?” “Is the museum open yet?” “Can we go see the dinosaurs NOW?”
You could feel the excitement over breakfast this morning. Something big was about to happen. We got in the car at 9:10AM. No traffic. We’re there at 9:35. We bought a membership for the year that gets us into NHM and the La Brea Tar Pits as many times as we want. We look at the insect zoo. AMAZING! We look at the North American mammals. WOW! And now it’s time for the show. Russ and I place our bets. The lights go down. “I don’t want to see the T-Rex!’, it begins. “Let’s go!”
This time was different, though. No tears. Just a lot of convulsing, which he does when he wants you to really get the point that he’s scared. “Garrett”, I start, “The dinosaur you’re about to see is a costume. There’s a man inside.” “And all the growling”, Russ adds, “Is from those speakers right up there”. We tell him it’s not real, it’s just for fun. That dinosaurs are extinct and the only way we can see them walk and roar is with puppets or costumes or robots, but we could leave at any time if he wanted to. Then Little Red Riding Hood comes out and tells us about how cool it is to learn about things you don’t understand. And then, OH NO, the T-Rex. Here it is, right in front of us and what’s Garrett doing? CLAPPING! Oh, thank you Lord. Garrett is clapping! And listening and learning and enjoying every second! We’re not running for the door. We’re in the room with the dinosaur and we’re loving it!
Show ends. We go see a lot more fossils and gems and bugs and mammals. Then G and I head to the potty where, lo and behold, Little Red is going into a stall! We wait outside the bathroom for her and Garrett says hi and tells her how much the T-Rex reminded him of “Buddy” from “The Dinosaur Train”, and how he loves Iguanodons and Triceratops. And he promises he’ll be back to see the Ankylosaur show soon.
We’ve come a long way in four months. But Garrett still managed to call me a bitch when I had a bite of his banana at lunch.