Roller Coaster Ride

What kid doesn’t love an amusement park? The rides, the fun, the cotton candy. There was a great amusement park that was popular when I was a kid. A day at White Swan Park was every kid’s perfect outing. You just never knew what would happen there.

The summer before my fifth birthday, our church had a family picnic at White Swan Park. All of the kids were in heaven as we ran around from ride to ride with our parents closely supervising us. We came to the pride of the park, the roller coaster, named “The Mad Mouse.” The roller coaster had individual cars, instead of a chain of cars linked together like a train. It also had a series of bumps at the end of the ride, each one a little bigger than the previous one. I was put in a car with my oldest sister. It was great fun until we got to the series of bumps.

We hit the first bump. I flew up in the air and landed halfway out of the car. My sister grabbed me and was pulling me back into the car when we hit the second bump. I flew further out of the car. I was  hanging out of the car, bent at my waistline and my fingers dangling toward the track. Even in my panic, I could feel my sister frantically grabbing at the only thing she could get a hold of….the waistband of my underpants. I could see the grown ups screaming below me. My mother, who was about seven months pregnant at the time, was running along the tracks with her arms outstretched as if to catch me. Just as we hit the third bump, I thought to myself, “This can’t be good. I’m going over and I’ve never seen my Mom catch anything in my entire life.”

Fortunately, my sister’s strength and the elastic waistband of my underpants both held out as the  young man operating the roller coaster finally realized what was going on and slowed down the ride. He was white and shaking as the little car holding me and my big sister came to a stop. The grown ups came rushing up to make sure I was alright, and I noticed that my mother wasn’t looking so good. It must have been the pregnancy.

I was a little embarrassed by all of the attention. To divert attention from myself, I broke away from the crowd and ran off to the next ride. The grown ups marveled at my resilience.  My Mom still didn’t look so good. As a matter of fact, neither did my sister. She wasn’t walking so well, and I wondered why her legs looked so weak. But, it was a beautiful day, we were at White Swan Park, and everyone was having a marvelous time.

Life’s a lot like that day at the amusement park. Everything can be going along just fine when life throws a series of unexpected bumps. Sometimes you are flying by the seat of your pants. Sometimes you are hanging on by a thread. Sometimes you have to accept the fact that you’re going over, and hope that there is someone to catch you. Another interesting observation is that kids are more resilient than their parents. Most of all, I believe that if there are people to support you and love you through life’s bumps in the road, it’s a whole lot easier to recover.

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

amusement park, bumps in the road, childhood memories, church picnics, family outings, family picnics, life's lessons, roller coaster, roller coaster rides, Western Pennsylvania, White Swan Park