The Sunday Scribblings prompt is curve or curves. And what has more curves than a roller coaster, not along one plane but on constantly shifting ones? The picture below is of a modern monster roller coaster. But the one below it is of the old wooden roller coaster, still in operation, which is scene for this memory that is deeply embedded in my psyche. If I remember rightly, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk roller coaster was (and probably still is) called “The Big Dipper.”
Until I was eight years old my family lived in Santa Cruz, California, a beautiful seaside town. We often visited the boardwalk along the beach. We were allowed to ride the merry-go-round and, with an adult to drive, the bump-’em cars. I’m not sure how old Allen and I were when this story took place, but he was only three years old when we moved to Stockton. I was five years older than Allen, my only sibling, so I would have been eight years old or younger.
Allen and I both loved playgrounds, especially the slides and swings. We both looked with yearning at the Big Dipper. It seemed obvious to us that it was a very superior form of slide and therefore would give us correspondingly greater pleasure. So we begged and begged (Allen learned the art of begging early with such an adept older sister) until Daddy finally consented to take us on our first roller coaster ride. The three of us crowded into one of the two person seats with little Allen in the middle. The cars climbed clickety-clack up the first steep grade then seemed to hang suspended at the apex of the curve while we stared down at a seemingly vertical drop.
Allen shouted, “I don’t want to go!”
What followed was sheer terror for Allen and me. We were alternately jammed into our seats or terrified of being lifted out of them. We were thrown from side to side. Our heads bobbled on our necks.
When our car finally coasted to a stop and we emerged on shaky legs, Mama asked, “Well, how did you like it?”
“Fine,” I said in a quavering voice. How could I admit otherwise after all that begging? Then Mama and Daddy got on the roller coaster and smiled happily as it began its dreadful circuits. Mother loved roller-coasters and would not be cheated of her ride.
It’s hard to believe, but Allen and I continued to accompany our parents on roller coaster rides with only slightly diminished terror on our part. I wouldn’t admit to being a coward. Maybe Allen had the same motivation.
Until one wonderful liberating day when I was already in college and Allen was in high school. A summer vacation found the family one evening at the Venice, California, boardwalk. “Oh, let’s go on the roller coaster,” Mama suggested, and Daddy agreed enthusiastically.
Allen and I looked at each other and wordlessly came to agreement. “No. You go ahead. We’ll just watch.” Nor could their coaxing change our minds. We stood contentedly as they went up, down and around, grinning maniacally and waving to us each time they passed to show us what we were missing.
I am not afraid of heights. I love airplanes. Otto’s brother Steven took me stunt flying in his plane and I thoroughly enjoyed barrel roll and loop-the-loop. I want to ride every Ferris wheel I come across. But my heart thumps and I get that sinking feeling if, on my TV screen, I see a roller coaster ride from the passenger’s perspective.