The saddest part about growing up is the fact that our sense of wonder changes so drastically.
When I was a kid and my parents told me we'd be going to the aquarium in Boston, I was predictably giddy. I knew there would be a sea lion waiting to greet us outside the place and countless fish swimming about inside. I wasn't afraid of the darkened inner chamber that made the multi-storied tank a standout.
As a parent, I may still be giddy at the thought of taking my kids to the places I remember fondly from my own childhood, but something always happens between the time the plan is dreamt up and the time it actually happens.
In our case the "something" was four inches of rain.
We were visiting relatives in the suburbs of Boston and had decided to take the kids to see the city's famous sea life. We took the subway instead of driving our car to save the headache of finding parking.
Since I was the only one without a raincoat I shouldn't have been surprised to find a line of people snaking its way past the ticket booth almost to the street, where trolley shills were trying to entice would be aquarium visitors out of the rain.
Not even an hour into the day and I was already feeling despair.
"We can't wait in this rain," I say to my husband, who cannot, as yet, admit defeat.
"WHAT!? NO AQUARIUM?!?" shouted Ittybit, tears welling up in her big green eyes as I try to explain that her brother and she are too little to wait in the icy damp.
My husband, with his eagle eyes, spots an ice cream shop across the street and suggests I take the kids there and get a cone. He'll wait on line.
We spend as much time in the two-seater shop as we can, sharing a double chocolate Oreo chip cone and being laughed at by the counter man, who, if his t-shirt was any indication, hadn't outgrown his fanaticism for '80s hair bands.
"Yeah, usually they set up a tent for the people in line when it rains," he says. "Too bad you didn't wear a raincoat."
I sent Ittybit up to the counter with a buck for his tip jar even though my ego wanted to send her up with a suggestion to ditch the threadbare Bad Company swag. But who was I to preach? I was just a middle-aged mom out in the rain without a coat.
So back I trudged, head down, to the ticket line, hoping the husband had inched his way under the overhang.
Of course at that very moment I hear: "I have to go potty."
I look around and notice a gaggle of people huddled underneath a movie theater marquis. We make our way over. As a seasoned parent who has witnessed a lion's share of "accidents" I effortlessly ignored the sign read: "Restrooms for patrons only" and marched right through a throng of people into the throne room.
By the time we found our way back outside, the husband was waiting near the aquarium door, drenched, with nearly $50 in tickets and motioning us inside.
There a photographer was waiting, armed with a squeaky toy shark and the promise of more soaking to come.
"When you leave, don't forget to stop and look at your pictures. The complete set is only $21."
By the time we got back on the subway — $100 lighter and four scary-looking commemorative photographs heavier — we really were headed to Wonderland. It was, after all, the last stop on the T.