There is nothing like a 12-year-old boy spending the day at Kings Island for the first time. He admitted he was a bit apprehensive as the chartered bus pulled out of the driveway at his school in Lexington, Ky. along with his fellow band mates and chaperones aboard, but he soon relaxed.
He had never ridden on a bus before, and didn’t know what to expect. Once he settled in, he enjoyed the miniature television above his seat and the fact he could push the seat button and sit, in his words, “way back.”
Heading to Kings Island, he was a bit worried some of his classmates would try to talk him into riding a roller coaster, which he didn’t like, and his willpower would falter at some point during the day. It didn’t.
His hair was freshly cut, crisply parted, and combed to the side. His dad had bought him some Old Spice pomade, which lightly held down his blonde hair, and kept his bangs out of his eyes. He was wearing a pair of new shorts and his Nikes looked good. His parents had given him $50 to spend at the amusement park, and he was set to go.
“Did you enjoy your visit to Kings Island?” I asked him later.
“I sure did, Grandpa,” Jack replied.
“What did you purchase with your $50?” I asked.
“I bought Starbuck’s Coffee for me and my friends,” He said. “I spent $25 for some latte.”
“But you don’t drink coffee, do you?” I asked. “You seem awfully young to drink latte.”
“No, and neither do my friends, but I wanted to do something nice for them so I bought a round,” he said with a smile.
As I said, there is nothing like a 12-year-old boy spending the day at Kings Island.
I asked his dad why Jack would want to buy coffee, of all things, at Kings Island, and use half of his spending money.
“This was his first trip anywhere without either his parents or grandparents. He had the money in his pocket, and he likes to be nice to his friends. Good a reason as any, I guess,” he said.
This past week, Jack stayed with Brenda and me in Wilmington for his summer vacation. His cousin, Lucy, and our great-niece, Uma, visited with Jack part of the time while he was with us.
Lucy is an outgoing, pleasant youngster, who enjoys spending time on the iPad, playing games and listening to music. She isn’t too much into sports, but she took some time and played basketball with Jack, until night came and we had to go inside.
It was fun for me to sit in my lawn chair and watch the two of them play ball and chatter about current events. To say times are different from our growing up years is an understatement. My friends and I used to talk about baseball and the Cincinnati Reds when we were Jack and Lucy’s age, but Jack and Lucy’s conversation centered on current hip-hop singers.
Jack loves to drive our John Deere mower whenever he visits. On this occasion, he talked Lucy into hopping on our other mower, a zero-turn, and they spent an hour or so happily riding around the yard, enjoying the cool breeze and sunshine.
Early the next morning, Brenda traveled to Blanchester to pick up Uma for the day. Uma is 6 years old, and once she gets over her initial shyness, she loves to talk and laugh. Brenda bought some wheat bread and had some leftover popcorn, so the four of us headed to the J.W. Denver Williams Jr. Memorial Park, to the duck pond.
Once we arrived, Jack and Uma immediately headed toward the pond and started feeding the ducks. Uma loved throwing the food, but began to back away when a duck started getting a little too close for comfort.
It wasn’t long before the bread and popcorn was all gone. Jack decided it was time to get out his drone and video the park. He flew the drone near the playground and over the ball diamonds, getting a different perspective from the air.
As the day wore down, we headed home. We loaded the fire pit with wood and carried our lawn chairs to the creek behind our home. We all told stories. It was interesting to hear tales from two 6-plus year olds, intermingled with stories from a 6- and 12-year-old. Let’s just say we covered a lot of territory.
This was my birthday week, and I enjoyed a fulfilled promise from Brenda. She had asked me several months earlier what I wanted for my birthday.
“If you could have Greg and Jack come up for a weekend visit where we could just have some time to ourselves, that would be the greatest gift I could ever receive,” I told her.
Time with family is something money can’t buy.
A round of Starbuck’s latte doesn’t come close.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner and former sheriff of Clinton County.