I’m sure this will come as a surprise to you, but I’m not the adventurous type.
In my benign youth, I watched my mom fry up a rattlesnake and my dad eat some, just to get our goat. My dad would gather us around and say, “Watch this!” while he slowly ate an insanely hot pepper. His face would go beet red, sweat pouring down to his collar, and I would think,
This is before I understood boys (men are just larger versions).
Apparently, you do these things for fun.
It should never have surprised me to discover that my oldest son made a video at age twelve wherein he eats a live grasshopper.
“Mom, people in China eat crickets all the time.”
And while I would love, love, love, to stereotype radical decision-making to the male gender, alas, my daughters will also do things which go miles out of my own comfort zone.
Case in point: Six Flags Magic Mountain of Shrieking Doom.
Every teenagers dream come true, specifically the one about where you’re flying and then you wake up at 2am and puke.
Every summer, a heap of our sons and daughters alike head to Valencia to storm the theme park. They do it at the end of July, when the temperatures soar to Death Valley numbers. They go for the entire time the park is open to get their parent’s moneys’ worth. They leave the sunscreen at home so they have a lasting memento of the day, since a souvenir drink cup runs approximately $13 before tax.
I know this because I volunteered as driver/chaperone one year.
I needed more punches in my Mom Card.
After a three hour trip culminating with reflex-testing LA driving, we filed through the entrance, kids scattering, and I began a slow survey of the place.
There wasn’t a single indoor area. Shade was at a premium. Seating was scarce.
Apparently, air conditioning is for sissies.
The morning wore on, and I passed groups of our teens, dashing on to the next hazardous horror, laughing like the little maniacs they are.
I had never been on a roller coaster in my life. The ferris wheel doesn’t count…and it doesn’t, technically, have seat belts, a thought that never left my mind during the tense ten minute orbit.
I strolled past a ride that blasts you at 100 mph backwards, then the tracks turn straight up.
At the very top of the track, which ends in mid air, stands Super Man. The goal is to have just enough momentum to reach him and say hello but not enough to run him over and off the end of the track. The car hovers at a stand-still for three heartbeats before flying 92 mph, straight down, all the way back to the start position.
The boom from the G forces comes first, followed by shrieks from the passing car.
You can hear them all the way to the top, where they have just enough time to take a breath for their return screams.
I watched in dread, rooted to the tarmac, and thought, “Why?”
I looked desperately for refuge from the havoc.
In the center of the park, high above the tallest joyride, was the Sky Tower.
It sits, with 360* views, displaying park memorabilia, and it’s air conditioned!
I found a corner out of the way, plopped myself and my books (always be prepared!) onto the floor and told the concerned employee that I was staying put for the rest of the day.
He was about twelve; I may have use my “mom voice” on him. It only works on other people’s kids, though.
Sitting above the screaming masses, the day passed quietly. Once in a while, a kid would call me and wave enthusiastically from a two hour line to yet another abomination.
As the sun was sinking into the west, a daughter called me and said, “Come down and meet me for dinner!”
We sat on the balmy benches, talking loudly over the nearby howling.
“Mom,” she said, poking at a $15 slice of pizza, “you came all the way to Magic Mountain and you haven’t gone on a single ride. That’s crazy.”
“Not as crazy as actually riding on them.”
She looked me right in the eye. “If you don’t, you’ll always regret it.”
Now there are a great many things in life that I haven’t done and have no intention of doing, and I have no regrets whatsoever.
But I looked into her challenging eyes for a long minute and thought, “Why not?”
All the way to the roller coaster, I asked, “What if I fall out? What if the ride breaks? What if it stops half way and I have to climb out onto the track way up there? What if I get sick? What if I have my eyes shut the whole time? What would be the point?”
“Mom,” she sighed, putting me in line, “this one is for babies. I’ll sit next to you. It’s okay.”
We strapped into the ride. I tried not to hyperventilate.
She patted me on my white-knuckled hand and smiled.
And I took my first and only upside-down roller coaster ride.
I kept my eyes open. I laughed the whole time. I went twice.
I decided to stop while I was ahead and take my one happy memory home with me.
It wasn’t of the loopy ride.
It’s of my daughter, trying to make sure I make a few radical decisions outside my comfort zone, so I will understand the “Why” a little better.
And not regret it.