#SATurday: The Lion Sleeps in a Casino

#SATurday: The Lion Sleeps in a Casino

When I was younger, my family moved around a lot – more times than what I can list here without risking your gaze blurring over – but we always visited Kansas every year. My mother’s parents lived in Kansas, and it was the go-to family house we found ourselves at for the holidays or even just for the summer. During these visits, my mom and dad liked to get together with old friends and family that were still in the area, and they would all go off to the casino. Since the casino provided an area for children, my brother and I went with.

Originally, the casino was called Station Casino, due to an old train that sat out front, but now it’s called Ameristar, even though the giant train is still sitting in the same spot. Oddly enough, I went back there recently, and the children’s area is still there, too – all gated off like a pink and purple jail cell. Of course I wonder if the inside play area is still the same, but there’s no way to find that out at my current age. The children’s zone – known as Kids Quest – has a cutoff age for 12. Older than that and you are in the arcade all night.

Despite the fact that my brother and I probably stepped foot in this place only one dozen times, it sticks out in my memory. My guess relies on the fact that it might have been one of the only places that was stable in my life. We returned every year, and every year, it stayed the same. There was even a kid named Jimmy that was there every year. He was the owner’s son or some other worker’s son. I can’t really remember why he was there every day, and to be honest, I don’t even know if his name really was Jimmy. I might have simply given him a name for my own comfort. It’s strange to have memories with someone who is a fleeting image of a person that once was, so I’ve been known to attribute things like names that might not be real, and eventually, I lose count.

That being said, Jimmy introduced me to the Pocahontas game, and I remember that game more than his name. (Again, perhaps this is why I’ve given him a name. I try to make up for the fact that I remember video game otters more than a fellow kid’s existence.) But I remember the otters most of all. And the fruit roll-ups. And how Jimmy always helped me find my brother since my older brother was at that age that he constantly ran away from me, and I was at that age that I constantly tried to follow him. Younger siblings, eh?

This will soon come into play. I promise.
This is how Jimmy and I looked during adventures.

The play area was three stories tall at the time, and with my little feet, it took a long while to get the top of it all. This was where my brother and some other kids hung out – mainly because you couldn’t get to them unless you passed a fortress of punching bags. It was one of these punching bags that nearly knocked me out when an older kid hit me in the face with it. I think that’s when my brother decided to hang out with me instead of his new friends.

It doesn’t seem like much, but we did eventually leave the three-story-tower-of-punching-bag-doom, and we went to the karaoke stand. This was something I ALWAYS wanted to do but also something every kid in the play area refused to use. It was just what it sounded like – a karaoke stand with three mirrors around it and a microphone at the front. You picked a song on the clunky computer, and then, the song played in the entire area, and you could sing with it.

My brother picked “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and to this day, that’s the only time I’ve ever done karaoke.

I don’t think I’ve purposely avoided karaoke. Even though I am a horrible singer, I think I’ve simply never come across another opportunity to do it or to feel like singing out in public, but I always remember that time, and in a way, I feel like that one time was happy enough for a lifetime of karaoke.

Even in a pink and purple jail cell, we learned to sing. It probably helped that most of it didn’t include lyrics at all. Instead, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” provided marvelous sounds we could belt in a song – a song that I knew because of The Lion King, a song my brother later cranked when picking me up ten years later from Driver’s Ed, a song I heard recently in a grocery store that brought it all back. Funny how even the littlest moments can stay with us forever. In a sense, memories are like lions in that song – sleeping tonight – but always near the village, always on your mind.




~SAT on #SATurday

17 thoughts on “#SATurday: The Lion Sleeps in a Casino

  1. My mom used to sing that song to me before bed. I performed it with a bunch of kids at a summer camp talent show too. Needless to say ‘talent’ was a rather flexible term during that thing. It’s amazing how songs can trigger memories so easily. Many of them we don’t even remember until we hear it again over a restaurant radio or in a commercial.

    1. I also think it’s amazing to hear another’s memories over the exact same song – like how you had this song before bed and I had it in a casino. It’s a pretty amazing thing. Definitely begins an interesting conversation.

  2. I loved that song as a kid precisely for the reason that it was in Lion King, which was (and remains) one of my favorite movies ever.
    It is strange though, how our memories sometimes work – the events of places we remember more than the people, the spin we put on things because that’s what made sense to us at the time.
    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  3. Just so you know, this really is a wonderful piece of writing. Seemingly wandering and digressive, but actually wonderfully developed. Have you ever considered a career in writing? {8~) I also had a somewhat rootless childhood (Army brat) that ended in Kansas, so there’s that too.

    1. Haha oh, how this comment brought a smile to my face. I’m glad you enjoyed it. :] I just moved to Missouri, so Kansas is officially my fifth state I lived in, Missouri being my sixth, but I’m going to talk about that in another post soon!

  4. My family’s never been settled. I think one time my sister and I tried to count homes, but gave up when we reached 35 or so. It’s odd what things stick out in our memories. I actually remember The Lion Sleeps Tonight as the last happy song we ever sang in choir. I can’t recall any of the others, but I loved that one.

    I think your writing style is very personal. There are bits and pieces that almost every person can relate to. It’s hard to describe, but it’s strangely reassuring. Keep up the good work!

    1. It is a calming song. :] I am glad you enjoyed this piece. I think growing up on the road left me to always write down my thoughts since I didn’t really have many people to talk to, and it’s always nice to share it and find people to relate to by sharing my words, so thank you for reading and commenting!

  5. I agree that music can root us to a place or time. I acquired a license to quote some song lyrics in my next book. Unfortunately, the license is only good in North America. I’ll have to release a slightly different version overseas.

    1. Oh, wow! Yeah – it’s kind of sad that we can’t put lyrics in books – since music is so relatable and important in culture – but it’s also understandable why we can’t. Congrats on getting the license for North America!

  6. Sometimes I get this flashes of vivid memories. I can’t place when they happened but I know they did and there’s always this one kid that I keep seeing. This post reminded me of him again. I wonder where he is now.

    1. Isn’t it strangely disconnecting but also comforting to know someone touched your life but not remember what they are named? I think it shows that people are important, even without a name – how names don’t define us but how our character defines us.

      1. It is comforting but at the same time sad because you realize how many fleeting interactions you’ve had with people and you wonder how much more difference they would have made in your life had they stayed in it.

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