arcade jackpot

Yesterday I took the boys to Dave & Buster’s which in the past has not been my jam. The lights and sounds and kids screaming–I am overstimulated and tired at the thought. But a couple weeks ago we all went to an arcade together and it was fun to see them play games and try so hard to collect tickets.

I remember when I was a girl, one Friday a month there was a homeschool skate. I went with my friend Jodi. There was an arcade on the carpet around the rink and we would roll up to machines and put tokens into them. I would always try to win on that cyclone one where you push the button when you think the winning bulb will light up. Never did I win. But I would collect a few tickets from that machine and a few more from another and I would fold them into a wad in my pocket. The really good kids would fill old cottage cheese containers. At the prize cashier, we would dump them onto a scale and then peruse the shop, forever deciding which cheap trinkets to trade them for.

Yesterday, it was that I thought of instead of how exhausted a place like this makes me. Instead of being worn out, I was nostalgic. And watching my children have experiences I enjoyed as a child was fulfilling, exciting. They played MarioKart against each other. I pushed the gas petal for Holden and I was excited by the race too, rooting for him, the underdog against his older brother.

Then they found this amazing game, Harpoon Lagoon. I really do love watching people play video games. I don’t know why, maybe it’s from hours of watching my brothers, then boys from my youth. But it is exciting to be their cheerleader, to not have any impact on the game, only on the person playing it. Holden is a whiz at games that require catching fish. Last time we were at an arcade it was a fishing game he excelled at. Yesterday was no exception. The boys shot harpoons at large fish and I watched their tickets rack up.

We went into the prize shop to find what we could buy. Brandon wanted a stuffed narwhal, like the one he got when Holden won the jackpot at Dave & Busters in Kansas City but he subsequently lost. Holden, of course, also wanted a narwhal. We only had enough tickets for one. So I reloaded the card, steered them back to the fishing game with the mission of collecting as many tickets as we could. And there we were, another game in, when Holden, the fishing game whiz, caught an electric jellyfish and won the jackpot.

Brandon screeched while he listened to the ching-chinging and watched the number of tickets grow and grow. Holden lay on the floor with his tongue out, playing dead with excitement. Then we went to the prize shop and they each got a narwhal and they each got a shark hand puppet and they were happy and so was I, not just because we won but because this time, at the arcade, I had a better outlook and there was a better outcome.

I was interviewed about an essay I wrote awhile back and was asked about my outlook on the future. I contemplated that, decided to rephrase it as “the tone in which we choose to live.” I am thinking about the tone in which I choose to live, thinking of little ways I can steer it into a life I enjoy more. Yesterday was a good day. Today, I think, will be too.

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