The truths I learned as a very young child: putting seashell-shaped soap in the fish tank results in Goldie going to heaven, eating an entire tube of cookie dough results in a heck of a tummy ache, and playing carnival games yields no results except an empty wallet. The first two lessons I learned on my own, but my knowledge of the scam that is carnival games was instilled by my father who told me it was so, and I had no reason to believe otherwise.
I have happy childhood memories of funnel cakes and tilt-a-whirls, of fat fries dipped in malt vinegar and repeated rides on the “The Whip”. My memories; however, do not include playing Rocko’s Ring Toss, Shoot Out the Star, or Plinko. Dad always said they were a waste of money, a con, a rip-off. Like flushing money down the toilet. If you want a toy, he’d say, I’ll buy it for you at the store. And this was perfectly fine by me seeing as how most of the prizes were poorly made with stuffing spewing out of the seams, looking drunk or crazy due to disproportionate eyes or a sloppy embroidered smile. I respected that my father refused to pour his life savings into an inanimate box or be coaxed by some loud-mouthed fast-talking swindler. Besides, the thought of owning a six-foot-tall giant Bugs Bunny kind of freaked me out.
When I first saw Jamie, she was squished against the Plexiglas surrounded by a stuffed blond baby doll with fat cheeks in a pink frilly dress and a brown teddy wearing an argyle sweater, her little gray face, its friendly disposition, calling out to me from her arrangement in the clutter, her row of green felt spikes peeking out the top of the mass of characters.
I stood there peering into the shuffle silently observing my new friend. That’s Jamie, the dinosaur, I informed my dad pointing her out. I knew I couldn’t take her home, that she must remain encased until some other fool came by and emptied his piggy bank into the impossible machine. I accepted that. I just wanted her to meet my dad.
While Dad went off in search of soft-serve, Mom took me to wait in line for the “The Snake”, a kiddie coaster that went round and round and round. After the ride had come to a full and complete stop, I moved with the group of children to the exit gate where my parents stood waving. It was then that Dad pulled out the small gray dinosaur I had seen in the claw machine and presented it to me. Jamie!
I looked up at my dad in amazement. I wondered how many times he’d activated the three pronged silver claw to dig down and scoop up the buried dinosaur. I learned a new truth that day to add to my ongoing understanding of the world: being my father’s daughter results in a pretty good life.