The dreams started in school when he read of the Seattle Fair
in his Weekly Reader
, and they grew all the way across the country. "I'm going to ride Wild Mouse
," he declared as we pounded our way across the broad prairie.
When, after four hours of heavy mountain climbing, we actually touched the ice of Grinel1 Glacier in majestic Glacier National Park, he asserted, "I want to eat in the space needle!" And while the Park Ranger reiterated the impressive statistics of Grand Coulee Dam to the accompaniment of the play of colored lights on the pounding foam of water flowing over, he thought to himself, "The science exhibit is free, and it's supposed to be very good."
We traveled like gypsies across the land, living in a Volkswagen beetle. The First Sprout was a college man by now and stayed home to work, leaving only four of us to crowd inside the little car. The boys slept in the car seats, the older in back because it was a bit wider. My husband fashioned sleeping boards to fit lengthwise on top of the seat backs, making double-decker beds. With an air-mattress and blanket apiece, we slept in comfort, although getting in and out through the windows required something more than grace.
We lived off the country, enjoying blueberries in Michigan, steak in Kansas, and luscious Bing cherries in Washington, but the White Tornado thought only of food at the Fair. "They have an International Street," he would say, "where you can find food from all over the world!"
Distance for him was measured in terms of the Fair. At first it was how many days away, an uncertain measure at best with our roving, meandering, ever-changing itinerary, but as we drew closer he began to think in terms of miles. "Only six hundred-miles," he would state as we started in the morning, and all day long the miles dwindled as we drew near. The last day I went to sleep when I should have been navigating, and we missed a turn. He was furious, of course, but helpless, and accepted the delay with good grace only because we actually, after all these weeks and days of waiting, finally were approaching the Fair.
Our plan was simple. "Let's go just one day," we had agreed, "and spend anything we want that day." The alternative would have been to go several days, spending our money on gate admissions and seeing everything that was free.
We arose early that day, having arrived at our campsite early enough the previous day to route ourselves to the gates so we would lose none of our precious day. We waited an hour for the gates to open, and as we swarmed with mobs inside our hearts fell. "All we're going to do is wait!" we feared.
At first this was true, but gradually the pace of our action quickened, and soon the day brightened with delight. My youngest son was ecstatic over the science exhibit, especially with Illusion Hall where he thought he was walking uphill when he actually walked downhill; and both boys were smug over the children's exhibit where parents weren't admitted.
We ate a Denmark lunch on International Street, and then I waited in line for the Space Needle while my husband took the boys on the rides. The Wild Mouse was a little too wild for the eager Tornado, but he recovered quickly when he realized we were actually in the elevator going up the long anticipated Space Needle.
We spent just an hour eating up there, long enough for a complete revolution of the slowly, smoothly turning wheel, showing the panorama of the Pacific Ocean, Seattle itself, and beautiful Mt. Rainier, rising like a ghost in the fog. When we came back to earth, we still had some time, and we went through the Bubblerama, a view of the future so fascinating to my Tornado that he wanted to get right back in line and go through again. It was time, however, to leave the Fair. We took a last ride on the Ferris wheel and reluctantly wandered out.
Without warning, on the sidewalk in front of the gate to the Fair, my nine year old White Tornado threw himself to the ground and sobbed and cried.
"What is the matter?" I asked, stirred from my weary complacency. He refused to answer at all, just sitting and sobbing. I smiled as I realized why. It was over. A goal was achieved and finished forever. It had been fully as fine as his dream, a miracle indeed, and now he could dream no more.
"Come, son," I said, "we must find a camp for the night. Tomorrow we will start down the Coast toward Disneyland."
His sobs ceased slowly, and he got to his feet. He looked back many times as we walked toward the car. The Fair will live long in his memory and in his heart. If joy and sorrow are the measure of life, he will live more richly.