• Jason McLemore

A Visit 35 Years in the Making

In terms of historic events, June 9th, 1984 was nothing spectacular. The only reason I even remember this specific date is because I have a cousin who has the ability to recall exact dates of events. He was with me on this day as my parents took us both to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (then known as Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent) for the first time. I was just 5 years-old so my memories of that day are limited at best. I remember the Budweiser and Michelob frisbees we brought home as souvenirs; Hey, what would the 80’s be without a 5 year-old playing with beer merch! Then, there’s one other memory which is the most vivid memory of mine from that day.

The one photo of Mom and Dad I took on Tuesday

If you know Busch Gardens, then you know where the Garden Gate Cafe’ is. Known then as the Hospitality House that sat in front of the old Anheuser-Busch brewery and current site of Iron Gwazi! We were sitting outside near the little pond that’s out front. When I recall this memory, I can picture where we were but everything else is blurred like a dream sequence in a movie. As with any outdoor dining area, there were the seagulls circling the tables waiting for scraps of food to be tossed their way. That comes in to play here in a moment. My parents bought me a cup of chocolate pudding parfait. As any 5 year-old would be, nothing else mattered except that chocolate pudding! I was in the zone when I looked down upon my hand and saw a black and white substance. To my little eyes, I perceived it to be some pudding and whip cream I may have dropped. As you can probably guess, I brought my hand to my mouth and licked it; immediately realizing my mistake. Those pesky seagulls left me a little gift that I thought was chocolate pudding. The bitterness took hold and the last thing I remember was sucking down my dad’s soda to rid that rancid taste! and learn.

It was great to spend some time with my parents

and feel like a kid again

The ways in which our minds work with encoding memories and recalling them is amazing. Sights, sounds, and smells can bring back a memory rushing back that you had not thought of in years. Childhood amnesia and the ability to recall this single, momentary episodic memory still astounds me. If mom or dad took me on any rides, to see the animals, or watch a show, I don’t remember any of it. I sometimes wonder what my parents remembered from that day. Come to find out, they also didn't remember much. While that day may stay as a fuzzy memory from my childhood, on Tuesday, me and my parents made more Busch Gardens memories. For the first time since that day in 1984 (35 years, 4 months, and 20 days to be exact) my parents returned to the park. Even though my folks are local, they had not visited since that day. I had gone back a few times during my childhood on school field trips and outings with friends. Then as an annual pass holder in my young adult years. Thanks to one of the Busch Gardens Gold Pass perks, I used my two free guest tickets to bring them back.

We had been planning this trip for a few months trying to line up a day when we could go during the week. Needless to say, I was very excited to be able to take them and had been looking forward to it once we had the day planned. Mom and dad are in their 60’s now and have some mobility limitations so there were no roller coaster rides that day! Though, my dad really got a kick out of watching the new-to-him coasters in the park. The only two coasters in 1984 were Scorpion and Python! What we did do is walk around and see just about every animal habitat, we rode The Serengeti Express, and chowed down on nachos from Dragon Fire Grill and barbecue from Zambia Smokehouse. Best of all, I got to spend some time with my parents which admittedly I don’t do often enough. I brought my camera with the intention of taking as many photos of our day together as possible. Instead, I only took one quick iPhone photo of them watching the screaming guests riding Cobra’s Curse. I decided to just spend my time in the moment and enjoy our time; and I’m grateful that I did. For just a few hours, it was great to spend some time with my parents and feel like a kid again in a place I now enjoy going with my own family.


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