I don’t think my wife has ever liked dinosaurs, which makes our happy marriage all the more impressive. Like many precocious, bowl-cut-sporting children, I spent an unfortunately large portion of my childhood carting around a cereal box filled with dinosaur trinkets I referred to, grandly, as my ‘dinosaur den’. It’s something she likes to remind me of on those long winter nights where the sting of my embarrassment warms her blackened soul.
Last week, however, she was in my world, as we decamped to a dinosaur-themed adventure park with my family. It was, instead, four-year-old Nora who had become terrified by the prospect of giant lizards she had been so gamely expecting minutes before we arrived.
My sister Maeve tried to persuade her daughter that the dinosaurs at the park, being large, stationary, and constructed from fibreglass, were unlikely to cause her harm. Uncle Eddie tried the opposite tack, claiming that the entire event would be so exciting she wouldn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately, this didn’t rule out the prospect that at least some of that excitement would be caused by her having multiple limbs ripped off by rampaging reptiles, so she stuck fast to her car seat, refusing to leave. My brother-in-law David, stoical to a fault, tried a different tack. ‘Nora, pet’, he said, in his reassuring Dublin brogue, ‘if you’ve seen Jurassic Park, you’ll know that “alone in a car” is the last place you’ll want to be if there are dinosaurs around.’
Through some combination of these efforts, Nora was convinced and eventually we trotted into the venue, six adults and five kids under five.
My own enthusiasm was keen. Some glowing remnant of my old addiction remains fossilised inside me, like the glinting carapace of a prehistoric, life-giving mosquito. I have infected my own son with the dino contagion, and he bounced through the turnstile with an alacrity that cheered our spirit, not least since he did so fast enough that the ticket-taker didn’t realise he was absolutely over the 90cm height which would have required him to pay for entry.
He posed with his head in a T-Rex’s mouth, climbed up and down a brachiosaur slide, and gamely studied the info plaques which gave a potted history on whichever creature was positioned before us. ‘Tie-sarah-topz!’ he screamed with delight as we turned one corner, drowned out by my own cry of ‘Triceratops!’ at the exact same time.
I could write a long and brave essay about my wife’s simultaneous delight at his response and bemusement by my own, but will simply say she found it within her heart to laugh heartily when said beast turned out to be a styracosaurus. ‘Need to consult your dino records, do you?’ she laughed, as I made a mental note to leave her alone, and unprotected, in the car next time.