I've shown my (incomplete) list of "50 for 50" activities to a few people. And each one who has looked at it has had the same reaction: "Mini-golf? REALLY??"
Yeah, well, there's a reason for that.
Some folks are looking at this as a "bucket list." It isn't. First, I'm too young to have a bucket list, thanks much. But, second, this is a list of stuff I just enjoy doing with other people, and knocking items off the list is as much about the people as it is about the stuff. So, no, I didn't fly to Fort Lauderdale "just" to play a round of mini-golf. I flew to Fort Lauderdale to spend the day with my cousin and his family; the putt-putt was just an excuse.
Got in late Friday night (insert here a rather lengthy flight delay -- Atlanta airport was still trying to work off the delay from the storms on Wednesday. While my plane was there on time, the crew to fly it was coming in on flights which were themselves delayed.) By the time I got the rental car and got myself checked into my hotel, it was pretty late. Cousins Adam and Laura had already eaten, but they piled the kids in the car and met me for dessert while I had some dinner.
(Insert here a rather embarrassing navigational error, by which I managed to get lost on the way to a restaurant located about a half mile from the hotel. I blame Google Maps.)
The actual 50 for 50 was, as previously mentioned, a game of mini-golf. Which happened today.
I've remarked at several other times in my journey that a lot of what has been valuable in these trips has been meeting my cousins' kids and watching my cousins be parents. Cousins Adam and Laura were my first cousins to have kids (their eldest is in college now), so I've seen them as parents for quite some time. Still, it was good to check in with them and the non-college-aged kids. Particularly, the youngest one, who is 12. I think I last saw her about 3 years ago, and there's a real big difference between 9 and 12. OMG, girlfriend is soooo 12 -- Naomi is much smarter and more articulate than she used to be; more self-assured; better sense of humor (shaped by her father). But she's also developing teenage cynicism, teenage pouting, and an inexplicable obsession with a K-Pop band. She's not as good at mini-golf as she wants to be, and she frustrates easily when she fails -- which, of course, makes further failure that much more likely. But she also can't quite get a handle on when it's appropriate to be snarky and when it isn't. Now, her older sister has Down Syndrome, so she had her own challenges (mostly motor skills-related) in the mini-golf. Her parents made a game of helping her; cousin Laura helped her hit the ball at the start and cousin Adam provided a human backstop behind the cup, making it that much easier for her ball to drop in. (She tried a few putts on her own; her form wasn't textbook, but she NAILED a few of them.) But, from time to time, we were all assisting Sarah a bit.
Now, occasionally Cousin Adam didn't take his own play all that seriously either; if he missed a putt and the ball ran to the other side of the cup, maybe he'd take that next stroke before his ball strictly stopped running. Part of it was just being silly; part of it was speeding the game along (seemed there was ALWAYS a family behind us waiting for us to finish a hole); and part of it was just, y'know, not caring. But sometimes the 12-year-old would try to pull off the same hit-the-ball-another-time-before-it-starts-rolling thing. She was unsuccessful -- both because she just didn't have the Mad Putting Skillz to catch a ball while in motion, but also because she just didn't have the RIGHT to do it. She wasn't trying to be silly or to move the game along; she was trying to get herself out of a bad situation by cheating.
As often with these 50 for 50 things, I was observing all the meta going on rather than just playing the game. Trying to conspiratorially whisper advice in the 12-year-old's ear while simultaneously sympathizing with her parents when she's giving dramatic overreactions a try. It must be hard being 12. In some ways, she's got the brains to keep up with the grown-ups, but not the emotional maturity. But she's definitely a good kid in there -- she's just trying to feel her way into being a teenager.
But we didn't JUST play mini-golf. Adam and Laura then dropped the kids off at Adam's parents' house. (They kids were spending a couple nights there. So was the bunny. And one of the 12-year-old's friends was at the house. So Cousin Laura opens the bunny carrier to get the bunny out of that and into the hutch, and the bunny makes a break for freedom, hopping all over the the dining room. Naomi's friend squeals and runs after the bunny, and it's like the house just went from same to crazy all at once.)
But I had asked Adam and Laura for one activity with the kids and one activity without them, so, for our adults-only activity, we went (with another of their friends -- Hi Corinne!) to an Escape Room.
Laura had booked us into a room called "Death and Breakfast." While the guy running the place was handcuffing us to the walls(!) he explained theme of the room: we've been on a cross-country road trip, stopped in a hotel, and woke up the next morning chained to the walls of a dungeon, and we've got an hour before the cannibal gets back. (And I thought, "Wow, we've made some bad choice, haven't we?") But we got ourselves uncuffed quickly, and escaped the room with about 15 minutes to spare. Although a lot of the props in the game (and the creepy sound effects) weirded me out, I quite enjoyed the game, because we played it solidly as a team. There were a lot of two-part clues -- you'd need to figure both the numbers in the clue and the order in which to put the numbers -- and I often got the first half of the clue but someone else had to get the second. And, somehow, in the midst of all the puzzle solving and body parts, we managed to crack each other up with a series of off-color jokes. (C'mon, it started with handcuffs and went downhill from there.) We finished up the evening with dinner, because there's nothing like escaping a psychopathic cannibal to work up a good appetite.
So, yes, Mini-Golf. Abso-freakin-lutely.