A night out…for all of us | ParkRecord.com

A night out…for all of us

Teri Orr, Park Record columnist

My son, who lives down the hill in Salt Lake City, asked if I would do the teenage shuttle shuffle this week so he and his wife could have a weeknight date.

I was to grab the middle school boy at home after school and pick up the teenage girl at "central station" across town, where she ends up …something…blah blah … after-school study session. I would grab them dinner and land the girl back at Spyhop for band rehearsal until eight. I would take the boy and "hang out."

After that? I was carefully instructed by my son, who has created many routines and structures he never grew up with, to take them to "Treat Night" because it was Thursday night. It was originally called "Ice Cream Night" so all week long the little kids would know they would be getting something special. Hell, when my son grew up, his mother let him have ice cream for breakfast. But this man, who became not just a scientist but a physicist, is precise. He likes, needs, thrives on order and reason. And his very eccentric children do as well.

I have learned to respect the parameters of the rules, enough to get invited back. And I break the rules just enough to keep The Grands knowing some things are just different when Oma is in charge.

I arrived on time for the boy and sent the girl a text: we were on our way. The address I had on the west side seemed like an odd place for an after-school studying location but she attends a science high school by Rose Park. When I reached the address and sent another text, I realized she had left the study session. The name was not the name of her school study group but the actual city bus depot: Central Station. Yes, we laughed.

Since this is a half hour turnaround I let her dictate the dinner location and she chose Caputo’s. We grabbed sandwiches and sure, I allowed them sodas instead of water or juice. The girl was challenged in eating hers — her newly acquired sling, earned from a skateboarding incident, was limiting her movement. She was most concerned she would be forced to not drum tonight but be reduced to playing the tambourine — their first gig, as the official Spyhop band, is next week.

The slight boy said little as he tackled his meatball sandwich with middle school age enthusiasm.

By six we had dropped off the drummer with promises of a treat later.

The boy and I sat in the car trying to decide what to do with our two hours. It was cold and wet so outdoor activities seemed unlikely. He reminded me the planetarium often had short films that were pretty cool. Since we were on that side of town we drove to check it out. We parked a few levels down, walked up the stairs and entered by a side door. Once in the lobby, special signs welcomed us to the Xfinity party. The astute, precise, 12 year old turned to me: "should we be in here?" I quickly accessed the situation. There were a few "guest-like" people in the lobby. Average looking family folks without name tags wandering around looking at exhibits. There was no alcohol being served. I said, "I think we’re fine." He said, "Isn’t this an Xfinity party?" And I said, truthfully, "I am an Xfinity customer." He wasn’t certain. "Oma, are we breaking the law?" I looked at his trusting, scientific, logical father’s face. I said, "think of it more like we’re crashing a party." The kid’s face lit up — it was officially an adventure!

We went from the sphere knocking over steel pegs to the tornado maker to the gizmo that had us churning up electricity to turn on light bulbs. We kept giggling and looking over our shoulders but the handful of apparently very important families there were doing much the same.

Upstairs we wandered to the movie theater and picked up 3D glasses to wear into the show. The sign on the door said "do not enter" if the doors were closed. And though I really, really wanted to bust in, I realized we might wreck someone else’s experience with a light leak. The Kid did, too. So the glasses went back in the box and we rounded a corner. There, a lovely young woman asked if we’d be interested in testing a new video game scheduled to premiere in the fall. Score! We were soon blasting asteroids and meteors away from the earth, trying to keep from losing billions of people each time one hit the planet. It was pretty damn cool. We politely answered questions afterward. Then we hit the gift store because no one was in there. The boy spent a great amount of time deciding which stuffed toy, designed as a virus, he would purchase for his classroom (his teacher had a collection of them on the wall).

Suddenly, the time to pick up the drummer had arrived.

I sent him in to grab his sister. She told me he entered that room of older kids with all the swagger of a skinny, shy, 12 year old and stuttered, "I just crashed a party with Oma at the planetarium!"

As per our instructions, we headed up to Hatch’s chocolates in the avenues for a treat. We made it home and one kid had showered when The ‘Rents arrived. They looked happy, all dressed up, and said the ballet had been lovely. "What did you do with Oma?" they inquired. There were conspiratorial looks exchanged and I gave a nod. "We crashed a party at the planetarium!" As the excited utterances erupted the quizzical looks were being shot my way and I grabbed my keys and headed up the hill. I knew there would be questions but I decided they could wait, at least until I see them next — this Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.

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