Thursday, October 20, 2005

Love More, Fear Less

The amusement park in Hersey, Pennsylvania hosts a Halloween party every year around this time. Families come toting little ones disguised as ghouls, fairies and witches; teenagers flirt and cling to one another on the enticing thrill rides; and park staff summon the last of their false enthusiasm to appease the throng of impatient park-goers before they close their gates for the season. It was the perfect place to celebrate the birth of two exceptional 6-year olds.

I held the small hand of a Pink Power Ranger while her Red Power Ranger brother ran ahead of us. He shouted over his shoulder, announcing the amazing things we’d soon see. They both oozed a sweet, intoxicating innocence. A perfect opal moon above seemed drunk with it; such a warm contrast to the biting October wind that reminded us of our lost summer.

We played with the children for a while and then separated to go on several of the bigger roller coasters. Eventually, we made our way to the one everyone claimed was the best. Its riders were strapped into seats that hung from a single rail. The limber metal soared, twisted and looped, and the coaster’s floorless design added a sense of vulnerability. Its popularity was evidenced by a long line of excited adventurers.

As we approached the front of the line, I was reprimanded by my companions for having worn a light cotton dress and slip-on shoes. They predicted that I’d freeze when I had to temporarily discard my shoes and hike up my skirt to accommodate the coaster chair. Admittedly, I was already shivering despite the comfort of my favorite old jacket. However, once the ride began I was sure I’d forget about the cold and appreciate the sensation of wind across my bare legs and feet.

I Love roller coasters, and this was my first opportunity to ride so many at night. The darkness and cold seemed to intensify the experience. Chilly wind fingers made goose bumps rise on my skin. The piercing bright moon in her bed of blue-black sky created a giddy sense of uncertainty. I was eager to ride when the peach fuzz park staff finally motioned to the next in line.

I tossed my shoes aside and quickly mounted the hanging apparatus. It swayed a bit as I hoisted my skirt and pulled the belt tight between my legs, clipping it into the shoulder straps. A slight jerk announced the beginning. I watched my feet dangle below as my personal hanging throne moved forward with its 31 counterparts. Before we cleared the enclosure, the moonlight flashed on my freshly painted toenails. In response, I looked up to smile at the night sky and caught sight of the first hill ahead. I stiffened at it’s sharpness, and for a moment I was surprised by an unexpected feeling of fear.

Although I was a voluntary participant in this 120-second voyage, I suddenly wanted to abort and feel the immediate and steady earth beneath me. It was too scary. I didn’t have enough information or experience. It was a rash decision that I wasn’t ready for. However, the shrinking pavement below reminded me that it was too late to turn back. I was already in it and there were only two choices. I could nurture my fear, or I could let it go and enjoy the ride.

I looked around and remembered that I was one of many. Others had come before me and more would follow. I was immediately comforted with the realization that I’m never really alone. As our caravan crested the first hill, I breathed in the twinkling landscape below and let the night breeze carry my fear away. And then we fell. And then we looped. And then we soared and spun and looped again. At some point I started laughing for the relief, the release, and the fun of it. As always, it was over too soon. That’s always the way it is with roller coasters. Thankfully, as long as we have the stomach for it, we can go again and again.

As we exited the roller coaster ramp, high on adrenaline, our young Power Rangers ran to meet us. They shouted with happiness, seeming breathless and struggling to find words for their enthusiasm. The Red Power Ranger was bouncing and motioning with his arms, "Auntie T! Auntie T! We went on a reeeeal roller coaster! It was awesome. We’re gonna go again."

His Pink sister interrupted, grabbing my arm as she insisted, "I want you to sit with me this time. If you get scared, you can hold my hand."

My face melted into their happy exuberance and I felt a wave of joy sweep over me. With one on each side, they led us back to their great new accomplishment.

As we walked together I thought to myself,
Oh, I hope your lives are filled with many awesome roller coasters. And may you always have a hand to reach for when you’re afraid.


At 1:05 AM, Blogger No_the_game said...

How fun. I love rollercoasters too. One in Vegas scared me so bad Ihave not been in roller coaster since then :)

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Ed said...

Lovely story, Theresa, and a beautiful sentiment at the end.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Laurie said...

I love coasters - and your description was awesome, I felt like I was right there with you on the ride.

Isn't it wonderful to experience life thru the eyes of a 6yr old?

Thanks for a wonderful post!

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Rednaked said...

Oh where in Hershey and I didn't know!

I'm glad you're heart is mending, dear

At 5:54 PM, Blogger theresa said...

no_the_game: I'm sorry you got so scared. You may want to work your way back up to the scary ones again.

ed: Thanks, Sweetheart.

laurie: I fall in Love with kids almost instantly. These two were the best!

rednaked: Did I miss a chance to see you? I get out east once or twice a year. Next time, I'll let you know ahead of time.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger ZooooM said...

I'm probably a giant dork, but this little post is damn powerful. I literally felt my stomach turn and "ride" with you on this.

Thank you for sharing.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Rev. Brandy said...

Found you by way of Zoom . . . and I have to say that this post brought me to tears. Thank you so very much for having the eloquence to write it in such a way that I felt it.


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