The Ride of My Life

This is a true story that I wrote a few years ago… I’m posting it now because this blog could use a little lightening up…

Some people who have read it before have said “it’s a little over the top, don’t you think?”

Of course it is! I wrote it! Have you met me??? Yes, it’s dramatic and over the top and intended to be that way… sarcasm isn’t always a bad thing…

Enough of the disclaimer.

“You. On a roller coaster. By yourself. Uh huh.” Admittedly, it was not one of my better mothering moments, but we were at THE MALL OF AMERICA and in that type of environment, my sanity is scarce. I remembered the last time we were here. The safety bar came down on my lap and cut off my circulation. A rickety ride jerked me every direction. I got nauseous. She looked up at me with hopeful eyes, steadfast in her resolve to ride. I looked at her, seeing only the end result: wasted time, screaming kids, long lines and me, having to find a way to calm her down and lead her back through the mass of humanity.

“We don’t have enough points for that ride.”

“We could buy more…”

“I don’t want to throw money away.”

“You won’t. I PROMISE.”

I’m not positive, but I think I may have huffed and stomped my feet all the way to the ticket counter, trading my her fit for my own.

We took our place in the “line ride”. It wove us around and through a damp, humid cave for a good half hour before we could see the light and the large puddles of water from the other side. It was unbearable. I had to do something to take my mind off the invisible war between too much cologne and not enough deodorant. I don’t know who was winning but everyone with a sense of smell was losing.

As we neared the front of the line and got further from the cave, I gasped for fresher air. I filled my lungs with the slightly less offensive stench of chlorine and disinfectant. I also noticed her sliding backward slowly. There were only a few people ahead of us now. There would surely be enough room for her on the next run.

The Log Chute. What kind of name is that anyway? When I hear that, the last thing I think of is fun… Riding on a hard seat, listening to the gears turn as you get higher and higher, the sensation of my own mortality presenting itself to me in a 4 foot drop and to top it off, getting drenched? Pass.

The water ride ground to a sloshing stop in front of us.

I turned around; expecting to see Tayla inching back toward the cave we’d just escaped and found she wasn’t there. Panicked, I spun around and caught sight of her standing right on top of that bright, yellow line. She looked nervous … and determined.

“Ok, you don’t have to go on the ride…” I didn’t say this out loud, I guess I was too stunned to say anything. Before my maternal instincts kicked in, a minimum wage, underage ticket taker had her in his grips! How qualified was this kid? He saw an obviously confident and eager kid, at the front of a line and just ushered her into the first available seat! Right in front of her mother! Shouldn’t he have at least inspected every seat to be sure she got the safest and the driest? Within the space of a minute, the log had emptied and refilled to capacity while I stood by, mouth agape and frozen in disbelief as my baby was basically kidnapped by a clearly power crazy ticket scanner and button pusher. She was whisked away on a certainly fatal last ride.

I don’t even think she looked back. Not a care in the word or the faintest understanding that 90 seconds from now, life would never be the same.

About the time she was almost completely out of sight, my speaking ability returned. Oh my God. Oh my God. It started out as a mutter then grew with increasing intensity. Frantically I turned to people for help. I saw a dizzying circle of people surrounding me. The offered sympathetic smiles and heads nodded in agreement. “No! Stop smiling and nodding! It’s not ok! She’s never done anything like this before in her life!” Sickening images barraged me as the tightly corralled waves smashed against the faux wooden logs of the disaster bound.

Was she scared? Of course she was, she had to be, right? Oh God. What if she is so scared, she tries to climb out? She’s a tiny girl, surely capable of slipping out of the sturdiest of restraints. She’d see how close she was to the solid, non-moving cave rock and underestimate the jump. She probably slip in a stupid puddle and get run over by the very ride she’d just gotten off… My imagination had also gone off the track as I tried to envision how I was going to explain to mall security that is wasn’t so much a missing person as missing pieces of a person. A macabre treasure hunt it would be. A swing from another ride caught my peripheral vision and I nearly gagged as I was sure I’d just seen an arm or a leg unattached fly through the air. I watched for the ride water to run red. Tunnel vision was taking over. Thousands of pins pricked my eyes, serpents swam in my stomach and air clung to my lungs.

“Mom! Mom!” I heard. Oh God, I’m already hearing her voice from the other side! It was true. While I was still facing the open tunnel through which she had disappeared, the ride had come full circle and she was behind me. Bright eyed, excited and most importantly, in one piece.

I hadn’t yet moved to the exit side of the ride and this was no time for protocol. I cut through an empty seat and grabbed my very brave girl. I cried as I held her close.

“Mom?” she asked.

“Yes” I thought. Whatever it is, yes…

“Can I go again?” She asked with a wink.

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