Santa bought the boys season passes to a local amusement park for Christmas. Because Santa discovered local amusement parks are desperate for money in winter. Santa thought Elijah and Luca would go once, maybe twice, over the summer and pretty much break even.
Santa didn’t anticipate Steve.
My brother has taken it upon himself to break the record for most bologna sandwiches eaten in an amusement park parking lot over the course of a summer. The boys are well into double digits on visits.
But when your roller coaster anxiety is high, combined with an aversion to baby rides, that kind of limits the amount of stuff to do. The kids found themselves riding the same 4 things over and over, and that introduced the dreaded word “bored” to their weekly trip.
As a result, the kids began dipping their toes into roller coasters. They’d ride the kiddie coasters, which are only slightly scary due to the fact they were built in the 80’s and are more rust than coaster.
I am a wooden coaster man, myself. Mostly because of “Smokey and the Bandit II.” So, I’ve been pushing the boys to ride the big old ancient wooden coaster in the back of the park. I have fond memories of holding hands with Kristina Liu in 7th grade on that old rickety, creaking pile of wood and screws. Every time we walked by the entrance, I would say, “Huh? Huh? Anyone want relive 7th grade?”
I was always met with a firm “Nope.”
Last time we were at the park, we walked past the ride entrance and saw the wait time was a glorious 15 minutes. Mostly because no one cares about big old wooden coasters anymore. When I was met with the kids’ usual refusal, I kind of lost my temper.
“Come on, you babies. This is the least scary ‘coaster in the world. You have to face your fears. You know what? I am going on this coaster. If you don’t want to go, you can wait here at the exit. Just don’t talk to any kidnappers.”
Eli, who had already ridden several other scary rides on a previous visit with the neighbor girls, was on board. Luca was terrified. But he was more terrified of kidnappers, so he clutched my hand and we walked the ¼ mile to the ride entrance.
By the time we made it through the turnstile, Luca was in near hysterics. I stooped down and told him we didn’t have to go. I was kidding about the kidnappers. We could go back to the kiddie coasters.
Luca cried even harder. “I…want…to…face…my…fears.”
Once the attendant locked us into the ride, Luca knew there was no turning back. Tears streamed down his face and he silently sobbed. He crawled into himself and I realized I had made a huge mistake.
As we climbed the first impossibly long hill, Luca found his voice and began screaming in terror. Oh man. I made a huge mistake. I thought I broke him. I held his hand, which was clammy and wet, not like Kristina Liu’s, and assured him everything was ok.
Once we hit the first drop, Luca’s screams of horror could be heard all over the park. Tears filled my eyes as I realized I would always look back at this moment as the time I turned my son into a vegetable. I imagined trying to explain what happened to my son at future family gatherings.
We immediately hit a second drop and Luca screamed, “You didn’t tell me there were two drops!” Oh yeah, this was bad. Years from now, people will ask me, “When did Luca stop speaking?”
Once we hit the tight turns, Luca’s screams changed. He began screaming, “This is the greatest day of my life!”
Luca had come out the other side of his horror. He loved the ride and begged us to ride it again. Which we did three more times.
Now all Luca can talk about is his love of the big ‘coasters.