Yesterday was our annual trek to the local amusement park, Kennywood. As a native Pittsburgher, I can proudly state that there have only been a handful summers that I can remember not going on the Jack Rabbit, Racer, Log Jammer and Kangaroo. But something has changed.
I can't say I know exactly when I shifted from Rider to Watcher-and-Purse-Holder, but I am fully in the latter category now. Rides that used to excite me, used to tickle my belly with dips and drops and breakneck speed now just make me stressed. Is it that I'm old? Maybe. But I don't think that's entirely it.
I remember going on one of those super high water slides in high school. (They don't have those at Kennywood, so I don't know where I was exactly...) I walked up the steps with my friends, determined to go down as cool and calm as could be. I wasn't going to be one of those girls who screamed the whole time. My turn came, and I thought, "Oh HELL NO." But I wasn't going to slink back down the ladder and walk to the ground. I was going to slide.
I jumped onto the mat and whooshed away from the platform.
I don't remember exactly what happened, but I am pretty sure I didn't scream. I don't think you can scream if you're holding your breath. The. Whole. Way. Down. And my eyes were mostly shut. When I reached the bottom, I realized I had the worst wedgie of my entire life. And I was lightheaded. But I made it!
I waited for the wave of euphoria to wash over me. But instead, my hands shook. My knees felt weak. And I thought I was going to throw up. I rushed to the bathroom and sat in the stall for a while until I could stand without hurling.
That's when it started. That's when I realized that all thrills are not the same. I didn't hate the water slide, but I certainly didn't need to do that ever again.
Some friends of mine go to Kennywood to ride as much, or more, than their kids. They enjoy things I cannot even watch, like the rides that go upside down over and over, or the swings. I have an irrational hatred of the swings. They're just swings, chains attaching them to a decorative spinning top, but you could not pay me enough to get on one of those.
Last year I was talked into going on something I did not want to ride. My dear friends (B. and D., you know who you are!) convinced me it would be fun. I had to hide my hands as we waited in line, and then again when we got off. Once again, like that water slide 20+ years ago, I held my breath and closed my eyes most of the time. The shaking hands lasted through the next ride and finally slowed. It was not fun. Not for me.
I was a proud Purse Holder this year. I enjoyed watching my kids laugh and scream with their friends. I enjoyed watching my friends wave to me from way, way up high. And I really enjoyed seeing it all with both feet planted firmly on the ground.