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The Bonkers Birthday

Story ID:4982
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dallas Texas USA
Year:2008
Person:Gracen Kopp
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The Bonkers Birthday

The Bonkers Birthday

The Bonkers Birthday

The Bonkers Birthday

The party invitation from our granddaughter arrived in the mail. Gracen wanted Grandma and Poppy to help celebrate her ninth birthday on a Friday evening at Bonkers.

I called Gracen that night and asked, “What is Bonkers?”

She giggled as only a third grader can. “It’s kind of like a Chuck E Cheese for bigger kids. You’ll like it, Grandma.”

Having never had the opportunity to visit Chuck E. Cheese, I still remained clueless about what we were going to experience. My intuitive side warned me this might be a never-to-be-forgotten evening. Curiosity about Bonkers and love for our grandchild made the decision easy. We would drive the eight hours to Dallas to attend the party.

As soon as we arrived at our son’s home, I went to work frosting the cupcakes cooling on the table. As I finished each one, Gracen added pastel sprinkles to complete the party look. Her mother gathered all the rest of the party paraphernalia, shooed us all out the door and into the family SUV, and away we went to Bonker’s straight down I-35 while cars and trucks moving at high speed whizzed by, boggling the mind of this small-town grandmother.

Arms laden with the party necessities, we traversed the parking lot to the large building. Our son reached for the door, pulled it open and backed up in a hurry when the sound from inside roared out to greet us. At this point, I found myself ready to leave, but of course, grandmothers stay the course, no matter what might lie ahead.

We moved inside where children of all shapes and sizes squealed and yelled, laughed and shouted as they climbed on an open-grid play-station of immense proportion. I glanced at our birthday girl. Her face glowed, and her eyes sparkled as she surveyed the chaos around us.

Gracen’s mom took over. She’d been here before and knew where to go, what to do. We followed like meek little lambs. We piled all our packages on a cart given to us by one of the teen-aged employees. Children ran by in a dozen different directions. I looked up at the giant enclosed play-station where the kids could climb ladders, crawl through tunnels, jump on a trampoline and more. The sign at the entryway of the giant playground said it was restricted for ages 4 to 104. I decided to claim 105 if asked.

More kids ran up and down a stairway that led to a game room, parents sat at tables nibbling on pizzas and looking numb, and the air reverberated with whistles, bells, and screaming kids.

Gracen’s classmates arrived in two’s and three’s until all ten had assembled. Eyes shining, they shed shoes and tossed jackets in a pile before they ran to the play-station.
We adults sat at a table nearby and watched as they squealed their way up, down, and around the entire huge enclosure. We heard “Mommy, look!” more than once, and it was anybody’s guess as to which mommy and child belonged to one another.

Next, the game room kept the party children busy and happy, as they each won reams of tickets which the child could redeem for carnival-type prizes before going home.

After an hour of constant activity, we moved to the rear of the building where a row of small rooms ran across the entire back wall. A Bonker’s employee took over and doled out the cupcakes, ice cream cups, soda and crayons. The partygoers drew on the white paper tablecloth, frosting landed on noses, and giggles moved around the table in a tsunami-like wave. Gracen opened her gifts, and the children crowded around her oohed and aahed over each one. After picture-taking, Gracen and her friends ran back to the play-station. How different this party in comparison to the small birthday parties at home that our son had when the same age. As for me, I had been thrilled to invite one friend to our home for dinner to celebrate my childhood birthdays.

Finally, the parents of Gracen’s classmates arrived to take them home. Sock bottoms resembled the inside of a coal mine after the two hours of climbing and running, even though inside the building. Matching kids to jackets and shoes proved to be a feat. As they left, each tired, sweaty child, party favor bag in hand, said “Thank you, Gracen. This was cool.” Or some variation of it. And this grandmother said a silent prayer of thanks that she’d survived Bonkers.

Once we returned to Gracen’s house, my ears continued to ring while I sipped a cup of tea. I spiraled back to birthday parties my own children had that took place in our home, where Pin The Tail On The Donkey proved a favorite game along with Drop The Clothespins In The Milk Bottle. The birthday child opened small gifts, they all lapped up cake and ice cream, and maybe each child received a balloon as they left for home.

Parties then were simpler, cheaper, and easier on the parents since they didn’t involve so much pre-planning and driving distances. What hasn’t changed from those days long ago to Gracen’s Bonkers party is the joy on the birthday child’s face as the special day is celebrated.

Photo 1: Gracen showing one of her gifts

Photo 2: A small part of the Bonkers PlayPlace

Photo 3: Party guests