It’s a Small World, After All

I’ve managed to get through 55 years of living and only go to two amusement parks. As far as I’m concerned, that was two too many.

When I was but a wee tyke and still adjusting to partial blindness (that meant no peripheral vision on one side and no depth perception- since, my brain has carved new pathways so these things are not even noticeable except when I try to play golf. No loss, there.) my father took me to a local affair called Walled Lake Casino and Amusement Park. He took me on some demonic ride call the Salt and Pepper Shaker and I screamed so loudly the ride operator actually shut it down to get me off. Keep in mind I was of midget proportion and raised to be seen and not heard and many other people were screaming in that regular amusement park ride way that people do. In the midst of all that, I vocalized enough terror that he shut down the ride. My father carried me off the ride, wet pants and all. He was not pleased.

Decades later, under the cloud of divorce guilt, I caved and took the children to Disney World. Daniel was nine and the Snarl was three and we were joined by Abby’s gentle German nanny, Elke. We went on Captain Nemo’s Submarine; later that same year when I took Abby to New York City she thought it was some variation on Disney World because, after all, they had that ferry boat ride and they had Captain Nemo’s Subway. Back at Disney World, the two adults split up and took turns taking the kids on various rides because Daniel could go on some that Abby could not, most notably Space Mountain. Daniel and I waited in line for well over an hour until we were first in line for the next ride. You all know this because everybody else in the world goes repeatedly to amusement parks, but Space Mountain has bullet shaped cars that seat two people, one behind the other. I was the first person in the first car and Daniel was right behind me. When that car shot forward in pitch darkness and then dropped straight down, Daniel lunged forward and grabbed my hair, snapping my head back. He held tight for the entire ride, screamed every second and got off the ride with enough of my hair between his fingers to make a wig. He was pale and shaky and after a moment, he said, "Let’s do it again!"

I turned him over to Elke’s care and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in a tiny row boat with the Snarl, going around and around- and around and then around some more in It’s A Small World. I think I dozed off after the first hour and then Abby, too, took a nap in the boat. Every time I suggested we get off, she said firmly, "NO! I am having fun!" All the while that miserable song was burning a hole in my head. Weeks, nay, years later, because it still plays in my head, that song comes back at various times.

Yesterday, I was reading an e-mail from the Snarl and I realized I was humming that loathsome tune. Faint, barely noticeable at first but by the end of the e-mail it was just blasting away.

Abby is on the cusp of her junior year; she lost a year dawdling around painting houses and waiting tables and diving while she found some motivation to go to college (Steak n Shake can be hugely motivating) and since then she has made up and advanced placed enough credits so she’s only a semester out of sync. Junior year is a year that college students often do that boondoggle called Junior Year Abroad. This is new since I went to college but nowadays most everybody goes and spends a college year learning something about the rest of the world. When I spoke to her a couple weeks ago she had pretty much settled on Alaska. Alaska is a foreign country, right? Anyway, it’s far away and she had found an opportunity to further her path in environmental science and policy in the Tongass National Forest and camped on the Mendenhall Glacier. I thought that all sounded like a good plan and although other parents are visiting their children in say, Italy, I would be happy to go back to Alaska and spend some more time there with Abby. In that pushy mother way that I sometimes I have, I’d begun a shopping cart for her at the Patagonia website.

And then, last night, I get this e-mail: Syllabus: HNRS EVR 4930/BSC 6932 Natural Environments of Botswana. And a brief note from the Snarl telling me not to worry, she has already paid the airfare but would I please get her an appointment with her internist because she needs to start on her antimalarial medication…

I was hyperventilating calmly discussing this exciting news with Rich and at some point I wondered aloud if we should let her go so very far away to a country where she couldn’t safely get a transfusion if, God forbid, she should need one. Rich pointed out that it’s not a matter of "letting her go" since this child, long ago, took over the wheel in her own life; it’s merely a matter of encouraging her, supporting her and making sure her health insurance has provisions for evacuation.

I went to bed feeling anxious and churned up. This morning when I woke up I had a whole new feeling. Envy. Pure and simple envy. I am SO jealous this child of mine will be seeing Botswana and Zimbabwe and all of the beauty and splendor of those countries I can barely see straight. I mean, I can barely see straight as it is, but can you imagine? ( I did not take this picture, obviously. I found it when I googled Chobe National Park, where Abby will spend much of her time.)


16 responses to “It’s a Small World, After All

  1. Oh, yes, envy! I just knew I was going to be a missionary in Africa when I grew up. I knew the map of Africa like the back of my hand, and then they went and changed the names of the countries. Of course, Congo keeps changing back to Congo. I had friends in Nairobi that I planned to visit, and then they came back to the States before I got there. I guess if I decided now to go my kids would wonder if it would be prudent, as would I, I guess. Guess I’ll just have to enjoy the African plain at Bus*h Gardens.

    What a great opportunity! As you said, she has taken over the wheel of her life. It’s sometimes hard to let go.

  2. Oh Vicki! That’s wonderful. The Snarl feels at home in this small world, doesn’t she? Good for her.

  3. Congratulate her! You have raised an independent woman. So…Congratulations to you, too, Vicki! Being a mother of a daughter, too, I would be frightened and scared, but Abby sounds as if she’s up for a challenge.

    I laughed my A– off when reading your Disney World adventures and past experiences when you were little. The bumper car ride at the beach shut down when I had an anxiety attack on my first ride, around age 9. I’ll never forget it. My Mom took pictures of the whole ordeal…LOL

  4. Hilarious amusement park stories. My Rachel asked, why are you laughing.

    My mother spent three years in Kenya at exactly the Snarl’s age. No e-mail or text messaging back then.

    Start planning a trip to Africa, Vicki. Spend a month there.

  5. Oh, I’m with Raehan on this… go to Africa for a visit. 😀

    Independent children are scary and yet exhilarating. Or, so I assume. My child is threatening to never move. His father and I are making plans to purchase property in Florida and just move out of our house when he’s 30. It will be easier than booting him out. 😀

  6. I have wanted to go to darkest Africa ever since I saw the original King Solomon’s Mines! You have to go and visit; take pics and tell us all about it. I love vicarious travel (I won’t have to get shots…LOL).

    Vicki, thank you for your kind comments about the pics. Hoss doesn’t come around much anymore, so I doubt he’ll see it. I have to admit I agree with you now. Too bad I didn’t know it back then.

  7. In Africa!!

    Madeleine had an earworm of OVER IN THE MEADOW today. And, now I can’t get Mancini’s BABY ELEPHANT WALK out of my head.

    5/11 of my kiddos have amblyopia. They got it from my father. Methinks dear Abby gets her daring and pluck from her mother. What an adventurer!

  8. How very exciting, though I would prefer Hawaii or Fiji or some where warm with water. I have never had the desire to go to Africa, not even diamonds could entice me.

    Nyssa decided to bypass the semester abroad for a double major. She thought about one in Vienna as she could have stayed in her Uncle’s apartment. Instead she went to Hawaii with her Geology class, worked on the coast and is trying to get a summer research program at OU in meteorology. Stephen has been muttering something about her coming to Europe after graduation. I thought Alaska would be great for Geology too.

    And DisneyWorld? I used that Unofficial Guide that helped you avoid the long lines… but the first ride I took her on at age 7 was Space Mountain. I did this simply to say we did it and to get it over with. I knew I would hate it, having already been in California… but, I didn’t know she would hate it…to the point, I almost didn’t get her on to the little boat in “It’s A Small World”. I don’t do rides that leave my stomach at various places along the track while the rest of my body moves on.


  9. I can’t wait for the same day that Lilly gives me the same news and I get to feel that same fear and envy.


  10. Well. This has been enlightening. I’ve decided to keep Samantha home from college. (kidding).
    Had a good laugh over your amusement park description, as I feel much the same way about them. Everytime we took the girls to one, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel!

  11. Well, Mom, I think you need to go visit her on her adventure!

    E-spouse did Junior year abroad in Africa–Kenya and Tanzania before politics there got dicey. He still talks about it weekly. Just the other day he was telling the kids about being in a jeep and driving up to a pride of 20 lions lazing in the sun across the road. Can you imagine?


    So, that Africa thing would be a bit nerve-wracking as a parent, but she’ll be fine and so will you.

    Africa over Alaska … I’d have to go with Alaska. I get plenty of tropical here.

  13. My number two son is credit-wise a senior at Michigan State, but still has a ways to go yet to get a degree (something about switching majors). His program is “International Relations” and he is supposed to study in Russia this spring. My wife and I won’t visit him there, however, unless he gets thrown into a gulag or something like that. (Since he doesn’t respond well to authority, there’s a possibility too).

  14. Snarl is quite a person. I like where she is headed, and I agree, I hope you take the opportunity to go visit her while she’s there in Africa. Think of the photographs you’ll be able to take. I’m so jealous.

  15. Look, Mom. There’s three elephants mooning us. Hoo boy.

    Trusting that Botswana is safe and fresh out of Bot Flies, I say Full Speed Ahead.

  16. My dad often told the story of the two of us on the mountain rollercoaster, I forget what it is called, in the original Disneyland. I was 9. I squashed his hat clinching it so hard between my doubled over as much as possible self and my knees. That was my first and only ride like that. My own version of the Snarl loves all rides, the more upside down the better. i would rather take antimalarial shots that ride a roller coaster.

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