Maggie doesn’t tend to like roller coasters. She explains that a car is safer because you have control of it. If something happens on a roller coaster there’s no steering wheel. There are no gas or break pedals. Intellectually roller coasters are safer, I explain, because no one else has steering wheels or pedals either. The cars have run the same way on the same track over and over thousands of times before you’ve gotten on.
She’s not convinced I’m right on this one. Besides, roller coasters are scary.
They’re supposed to be scary. They are designed to put your heart in your throat as you whip into action down that first hill.
We stopped in Hershey, PA and went to the amusement park there. We rode the scrambler which whipped you around in a spyrograph pattern. A wheel within a wheel. Four cars rotated around a hub and this hub rotated along with three others about a central hub. I found this way more challenging than a roller coaster ride but Maggie loved it. We rode on another ride where these two man cars whipped around in a circle while the riders controlled their height with levers attached to hydraullic pumps. Maggie gave us a ride that would challenge any roller coaster and yet she had complete control of our vertical position. It was perfect for her.
She balked at a couple of other rides and then chose a water ride. The park rated it a four on a scale of five for difficulty. She had originally wanted to draw the line at three but really enjoyed the ride. She saw that the next one she wanted to try required that you sit with your legs dangling and she wasn’t about to do that. As much as she’d loved the flume a summer before, she wasn’t willing to try it this year. She loved a ride that freaked Kim and me out a bit. The coaster was fairly slow and flat but the tight turns made it feel as if you would fall out the sides.
Towards the end of the night we faced the tamest coaster in the park. Maggie agreed to go on it and she and I rode together. We went up the first slow hill with the rachet sound that always accompanies this dramatic moment. I worried that the coaster would be too fast and she’d hate it. But it wasn’t. The ride was fairly slow and gentle. A few hills and then we spiraled down in the corkscrew. When we were pretty close to the ground we leveled back off and coasted to a stop back at the gate.
“Did you like it?” I asked.
“Yeah, it was ok.”
“Would you go again?”
And then she started to shake. It was a delayed reaction. Something had happened on the ride that hadn’t caught up to her when we were talking. She was really upset. I held her til she stopped shaking and apologized. The tears seemed to have come out of no where. One moment she was saying she’d ride it again and then something smacked her hard.
It felt like yet another metaphor for our last months. So many times I would say – and believe – I was ok and then something would catch up to me and knock me over. I’d go from fine to incapacitated in a matter of moments. And here was Maggie showing me that the answer to the question “what’s wrong with me” is “nothing”.
Later she would say that the corkscrew left her “three centimeters from the ground. I could have crashed.”
It was low. But she’d come through it o.k.. And then she hadn’t.