Two years ago my parents took all five grandchildren to Florida to the beach and Sea World and Disney World.
My mom looked kind of chagrinned when she brought it up, as though she was worried we might think they had taken leave of their senses. She had reason. When my brother and I were young, our family drove west, not south; we vacationed in the woods, not the city; and rare were our visits to an amusement park.
They take them, all five of them, somewhere every year. I accompanied them on one of these trips. Two words: controlled chaos. Plus hefty doses of work and fun, adventure and love. They come home exhausted.
My son is the oldest grandchild and my niece, the youngest. The ten years between them has allowed him to enjoy her in a different way than he has the others. From her toddlerhood he’s carried her on his back when they’ve been on the trail. He pushed her all-terrain stroller down the mile-long switchbacked dirt trail to the Yellowstone River and back up again. He still hoists her up when she’s too little to see.
She was his partner so his was the dilemma when they passed through the gate to the Journey to Atlantis water roller-coaster. He felt her pull on his hand as her little voice called out, “Let’s sit in front! Let’s sit in front!” What was a fifteen year old boy to do? He didn’t want to take her to the front because he knew it would be scary for her but he didn’t want to disappoint her either.
They sat in front.
It was a rough ride. “Let’s sit in front” quickly gave way to “Cover my eyes! Cover my eyes!”
Roller-coasters are punishing. I didn’t know that when I was young. When I climbed out of the car on Adventureland’s Tornado at fourteen, I didn’t know how it would be twenty-five years before I rode again. What was a thrill in my teens was just painful in my thirties. Every hairpin turn shook my rigid body. Every drop rearranged my insides.
I don’t get to choose reality and unlike my niece, I don’t head to the front car. My tendency is to hang to the back and give myself the illusion that I’ve postponed the drop or minimized the effect. I suppose we all have our way of engaging the drops and turns that come our way. This year I’m wondering if I need to shatter the illusion and grow up enough to revisit the zeal of youth that heads toward the front.
And you? Where is your seat of choice on a roller-coaster? How about in life?
Linking with Lyli’s Thought Provoking Thursdays.