“How Many Tokens Are You?”

For Christmas last year, my nine year old nephew asked if he and I could go out together for a day. He wanted to start with Toys “R” Us and then on to Chucky Cheese…Every kid’s dream and every parent’s headache.  But if you’re an aunt, it’s a blast.

Toys “R” Us was fun. My nephew, Zac, had gift cards from Christmas to spend, and he was determined to buy Lego sets.  I had strict instructions from Zac’s mom he could buy anything except Lego sets.  He has boxes and boxes of them at home, some still unopened.

I had no idea how many toys Lego made.  Zac tried his hardest to convince me he desperately needed a multitude of Star War Lego  kits.  I think we went down four aisles before we saw a brand other than Lego.

He settled on two gigantic Nerf guns, and helped me pick out a birthday gift for his younger brother.  Toys”R” Us is a dangerous store… Even for adults. I was proud of Zac. Once his gift card amount was spent, he was happy to leave without an ounce of, “But I really need this, too.”

Chucky Cheese was total chaos when we arrived.  It was Sunday, and I realized I had never been there on a weekend.  Dozens upon dozens of kids were playing all sorts of games.  Various little ones were screaming because their parents said it was time to go home.  By Chucky’s stage, a few birthday parties were simultaneously celebrating.

I was trying my best not to step on little feet.  We found a table, ordered some pizza and bought tokens for the games.  Zac went to play a basketball  game, and I followed a few steps behind.

As I kept an eye on Zac, I wandered around nearby, checking out the games other kids were playing.  It was fun to see four year old’s in competition with each other, with the victor getting so excited! 🙂

Suddenly, this tiny little dark haired girl comes out of nowhere and climbs on my lap as quick as a mini gecko.  She kicks her shoes off, settles herself on her knees and is instantly comfortable on my lap.

She realizes she’s forgotten something and turns around to look at me.  She was perhaps three years old and no bigger than a peanut. She had a blue dress on, colorful tights and the longest, darkest eyelashes I had ever seen.

She fearlessly looks me in the eye, smiles and asked,” How many tokens are you?”  She was so quick, so unafraid and so damn cute, all I could do was smile. She thought I was a ride.

Less then a minute went by from the time she climbed on my lap to when she asked how many tokens I required. Chucky Cheese was very crowded. This girl was too little to be left playing on her own. My eyes began to scan the crowd for someone who looked like they may be looking for their child.

Suddenly, my eyes locked with a woman on the far side of the restaurant.  The look on her face said everything.  She set off towards us as fast as she could. I wanted to start weaving my way through the crowd to meet her, but I worried she would lose sight of us in the crowd  and panic.

So I stayed where I was, with her daughter on my lap.  I waved to the woman and she waved back frantically. I smiled and hoped she could tell I was going to stay where I was until she got to us. I felt so bad because she had to watch her little girl sit on a complete stranger’s lap.

It was slow going for her to get to us.  There was literally no room to move through people.  By this time, the little peanut  told me her name was Sara and asked why we weren’t moving. She showed me her cup of tokens and asked me again how many I needed.

I didn’t bother explaining. I just told her my name and said we were going to wait until her mom came to us.  She pointed to the birthday party she was a part of and said she was big enough to play the games with seats.

At that moment, her mom reached us.  She grabbed Sara, and went back and forth with thank you’s and apologies.  I introduced myself, and told her no apology necessary because I adore children.  The woman’s name was Naomi.   She said out of her four children, Sara was the youngest and by far, the fastest.

My table was next to her birthday party, so we walked back together.  Sara wanted to ride on my lap, and I said I wouldn’t mind in the least.  I think Naomi, however,  needed to carry her daughter because Sara was persistent about the lap ride and Naomi said nothing.

Imagine being at a crowded place like Chucky Cheese and seeing your daughter on a stranger’s lap on the other side of the room. The poor woman must have been terrified of the possibilities of my intentions.

Naomi and Sara went back to their birthday party.  Normally, I explain to little kids I have a big boo-boo and it makes my legs not work. They usually think the wheelchair is cool and love the joystick.  That day I didn’t explain anything to Sara.  I preferred to stay as a ride at Chucky Cheese.


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