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…
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.)