Legend has it ("Legend" being my dad) that I rode the monumental roller coaster Lightning Loops at Great Adventure Amusement Park at the tender age of 6. Having a six year old daughter myself, I can't imagine letting her ride a huge, loopy, upside down roller coaster. Apparently my parents had no such reservations. My dad tells the tale that I waited bravely on line with him and had no idea what was coming. From the ground, my mom reported that my two braids stuck straight up in the air as we went upside down. My only real memory of the experience is my dad saying, "Now we go backwards" as the ride slowed down and I thought we were finished.
Fast forward 34 years to this summer's family vacation to Busch Gardens Amusement Park in Virginia. My husband and two children (ages 8 and 6) met up with my sister, her husband and her son (age 10). We were also with another family that had 3 boys (ages 10, 7, and 5.) My nephew, Will, is fearless and wanted to ride every single roller coaster. My sister was willing to go on with him. My son wanted to do a lot of the rides and my daughter was too small for most of them. I had mixed feelings about it.
One part of me felt too afraid to do roller coasters. Didn't want to be petrified as the roller coaster steadily climbs a high mountain only to zoom right down it at the speed of light. Felt worried the harness wouldn't go down appropriately and I would fall out (unreasonable fear, but still there). I've had vertigo in the past (where the room just spins and spins) and I was concerned a roller coaster would bring that back. So a big part of me wanted to skip all roller coasters.
Another part of me wanted to face my fears. To do something frightening and make it to the other side stronger. To experience the rides with my family and be an example of having courage.
The very first ride we came to was called Finnegan's Flyers. It looked like two giant swings with seats attached. It would swing very high in either directions, opposite each other.
"Are you going to go on it?" my sister asked, already walking to the line. Nodding yes, I handed my backpack to my husband to hold and took my son with me. Alex, Will and my sister and I were all in the same side of the swing. It started up and before long we were swinging through the air so fast and so high. I kept my eyes closed tight and screamed the whole time. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time! When the ride was over, I was relieved but also proud that I faced a fear and went on the ride.
As the vacation went on, my sister and nephew rode every single ride at Busch Gardens. My son rode more than I did. I was often the bag holder while others went on, or I would ride a smaller ride with my daughter. Still, I am glad the first ride I went on was Finnegan's Flyer and that I showed I can do things that scare me and come out the other side prouder and stronger.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski