"Wouldn't you rather see the sharks?"
Our Little Professor crossed his arms and shook his head in a definite "no."
"Momma, I want to go to MagiQuest," he explained patiently.
Earlier, he wanted to go to the Aquarium of the Smokies. He'd been talking about it all week, since we told him he could choose one of the attractions on this trip. Somewhere between my blearily stumbling out into the condo kitchen for my daily hit of java and actually achieving consciousness, he changed his mind.
"What's MagiQuest, anyway?"
"I don't know," said the Long Suffering Husband. "Some Harry Potter-type thing."
"They give you a wand, Momma!" He danced at the prospect.
"A wand? What do you need a wand for? What does Sister think about this?"
The Professor indignantly reminded me his sister chose the Titanic Museum earlier in the week. It was his turn to pick and he wanted to go to MagiQuest. In the face of such a logical - and annoyingly correct - argument, I had to concede.
We arrived at MagiQuest. Its facade resembled an enormous castle. The young man standing just inside the door was wearing a doublet and hose. I hoped he was making more than minimum wage. Despite his dress, he was friendly and helpful, helping the children choose their wands and Magi names. Since they used their names, appending "the Great" and "the Awesome" to them, I was unimpressed.
"If it was me picking out the name, it'd be something like 'Cruel and Terrible Overlord Momma the Terrible,'" I sniffed.
"You have 'terrible' in there twice," the LSH pointed out.
"It's the most important part."
The children entered the attraction, armed with wands and "Ancient Books of Wisdom," and I followed, because I am a helicopter parent and, while not willing to purchase a wand for myself, I was perfectly content to pay $5.99 to follow my child around while he entertained delusions of being Merlin.
There were a lot of Merlins. People wandered around in full costume, with pimped-out wands. Capes billowed behind them as they trotted from the dungeon to an enchanted wood. The advertisements said we would "enter the kingdom realm," but this wasn't exactly the realm I expected.
The Professor was bouncing and tugging on my hand. "Let's go!"
The game combined riddles and a scavenger hunt, with plenty of special effects and interactive stations thrown in for good measure. I could barely keep up with the professor as he raced around, flourishing his wand and collecting items to trade to gargoyles and princesses for "powers."
"What is this?" I said, watching him trade "pieces of an ancient talisman" for the ability to throw lighting bolts. Or something. I read the riddles in the "Book of Wisdom" and tried to help him puzzle them out, but he didn't really need me and my attention wandered.
"The Rune of Distraction." He frowned at me. "Aren't you paying attention?"
"It's the Rune of Distraction. Am I supposed to be paying attention?"
I was paying attention a little later, though, when he started getting frustrated with the difficulty of the next quest. I could see the signs of an impending meltdown.
"Slow down," I said. "This is supposed to be fun."
All of the costumed people around us were having fun. Maybe they were on to something I just didn't get.
"I can't find any of these things." He threw his hands up. "I need the moss and the fungi, but I can't find them." His voice cracked a little, and I paged through the "Book of Wisdom," looking for the quest riddle.
"This looks like the fern is in the forest. Let's go slow and look carefully."
I grabbed his hand and led him back into the forest, searching for the elusive fern. His shoulders were slumped, and his face was long.
Finally, I spotted it, practically blending into the wall. "There! Wave your wand or whatever!"
He swished and flicked, and the fern lit up. "That's it, Momma!" He gave me a big smile - way better than any special effect.
"I'm catching on to this magi stuff, huh?"
"You're not even an apprentice magi, though," he pointed out. "You're a magi guide."
"So I am. Let's go find that shadow moss."
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)