Danny Henley: I didn’t lose my sunglasses, hat or lunch

Danny Henley

“Did you have a good day?”

On the surface it seems to be the simplest of questions, but when you stop and think about it, the criteria upon which such a judgment is made varies for almost every person.

For some, it’s a good day if they just awake to see another day. Other people consider it a successful day if they don’t pull their hair out, or someone else’s. There are those who judge the quality of their day by how much money they generated.

After taking last Thursday off from work, I found my standards for judging the day were quite simple when asked about it the following day: I didn’t lose my sunglasses, my hat or my lunch.

Those three benchmarks may sound odd as a gauge for the day until you consider that I spent the majority of it with my daughter, Anna, at the Six Flags theme park near St. Louis.

An annual trip to Six Flags has been a part of our family’s regular summer routine for the past few years. Anna has earned her ticket, plus one for an adult, by participating in a reading program during the school year.

For the first few years it was Nancy, my wife and Anna’s mom, accompanying Anna and me to Six Flags. One year, when Nancy had a bum knee, Amber, one of Anna’s older sisters, accompanied us to the park. However, the past few years it’s just been Anna and me venturing out together.

This year it really hit home how much my daughter has changed since we first started going to Six Flags. It wasn’t all that long ago that the first ride we HAD to go on, regardless of the line’s length, was the antique cars. This ride gives youngsters the opportunity to drive, while their parents, most still twitching from having maneuvered through I-44’s traffic to reach the park, depressurize in the back seat of the 1911 Cadillac replicas which cannot go too fast or leave the designated course.

This year we weren’t even in the park before Anna spied Six Flag’s newest roller coaster, the Evel Knievel. Anna, with me in tow, flew past the old-time cars for the new roller coaster. Standing in line I pondered the significance of going on a ride named for a daredevil who during his lifetime managed to break bones that most of us never realize we have.

Possibly my most manhood-challenging ride of the day was going for the first time on Mr. Freeze, which I judged had the potential of being a colon-cleansing experience after watching car after car shoot out of the loading bay. Standing in line, it quickly became apparent I was the lone Baby Boomer in a sea of Generation Xers.

To take my mind off the impending ride, I started reading the many warning signs intended to discourage those with certain health conditions from climbing aboard. The only advisory I felt 100 percent confident did not apply to me was the one dealing with pregnancy.

Roughly 25 seconds after climbing aboard Mr. Freeze I was staggering off the ride, happy that I had not lost my lunch or control of any bodily functions.

“That wasn’t so bad,” assessed Anna.

“No, it wasn’t,” I replied, not sharing with my daughter that my expectations for the ride had included being on the business end of shock paddles at its conclusion.

We didn’t find our way onto every roller coaster in the park. After riding The Boss and Screamin’ Eagle last year and winding up stiff and sore, I begged off this year. Neither did we climb aboard “the black belt of roller coasters,” the Ninja. But to appease my daughter I agreed to be dropped 230 feet on the Superman Tower of Power, get soaked on the Tidal Wave and looped silly on The Batman.

As we left the park late that afternoon, my weary daughter expressed her appreciation for helping make it a fun day at Six Flags. Her satisfaction helped me conclude it had indeed been a very good day.

Hannibal Courier-Post