Up, and Down, and Up again

Last week we went on vacation. This isn’t so unusual. It is summer, after all. We left at six o’clock in the morning, the day after our son’s last day of school.

I have reached a sad and discouraging point in my life in which vacation sometimes seems like more work than its worth. This is a development I am sure has more than a little to do with having kids. If all I had to worry about was my own darn stuff, then, shoot, it’d be grand. But I try to remember everything, for reasons that include the fact that I do not, under any circumstances, want to go to Wal-Mart while on vacation. I avoided it this time. I went to Kmart instead. Three times. On a seven-day vacation. (Groceries, waterproof bandages, and a fishing license. All evidence of a good time, so I can’t really complain.)

I surprised myself on this trip, though. I stressed less the week before. Good start. But I was also more excited than exhausted, more intrigued than fearful of something going wrong.

We stopped in New York City on the way down to Williamsburg, VA. It is the halfway point, and not a bad one at that. We had no major plans there, and liked it that way. By the time we checked into our hotel and had dinner, we didn’t get into the city until near eight o’clock at night. We meandered around Times Square, saluted the lions outside of the library, and eventually caught the subway back.

Chloe was upright in her stroller the entire time, giggling at everything she saw, alive with the wonder of it. That’s about how I felt. I always imagined I’d be self-conscious in that bright city full of clever and bright people, but I discovered instead it is a great place to be invisible, if you can handle the noise of it. Theo, on the other hand, brave soul and lover of all things loud and bright, shrunk back into himself like I have never seen. He held my hand the whole time, clinging to my shirt if I wanted to stop and take a picture. I wonder if he finally met his match, and was afraid of having to concede to this city, which managed to be a louder presence than he.

In Williamsburg, at Busch Gardens, I faced a fear of my own that had been settling deep into my bones for too long. I called it, “I’m too old for this stuff,” but realized as I stood in line for a roller coaster that it was nothing more than raw fear, strange fear, for things I had never been afraid of before. People that might look at me funny if I say the wrong thing? They have always scared me. But mechanical wonders that hurdle me for no real reason through space at unmatched speeds, those I have always been okay with.

After the first coaster, I thought, Okay, I did it. Good. Got it over with. It was fun. I screamed and giggled. But I think I am done.

Then I got itchy. I wanted to go again. So I rode all but the scariest, and had we had more time, I probably would’ve pushed myself into that line, too.

I have to confess. I am funny on rides. Really, much more expressive than in real life. It’s like the Allison in my head finally breaks out on a ride and just lets loose. Sean said more than once that he wasn’t sure what was more fun, riding the roller coaster or watching and listening to me ride the roller coaster. I giggle. I mean, really giggle.

On one of the coasters, there is a few serious drops. I am not a big fan of those. I particularly hate the climb to the top. I distract myself with an attempt to appreciate the view, or look for my car in the parking lot, but I can’t help but think of what’s coming at the end of the climb. Twists and turns and loops and corkscrews? Giggles and whoops and hollers. Giant hills? Well, screams, usually, but for this one I had nothing to offer but a stone faced silence. There were two or three of these massive drops in a row, and for each the silence seemed to compound in my chest. Until we hit a little bump. Just little. And it tickled! So I let out a loud heeHEE, and laughed it up the rest of the ride.

Not the roller coaster, but still fun!
Not the roller coaster, but still fun!

I could’ve missed it. I could have stayed safe in my matte reality, where most things make at least a little logical sense. I am a very logical person. This is reflected all over my house, in the way I organize and arrange things. I mean, why on earth would you store your sheets in a linen closet down the hall and not in the room in which you intend to use the sheets?

In a sheepish effort to capture the day I bought a mug on the way out of the park that says, “Life is a roller coaster.” I felt a little silly explaining in a tiny voice to my husband, who, I’m sure, was picturing our crammed mug cupboard at home (above the coffee maker, logically) that I was proud of myself for what I did that day.

Since we’ve been home I’ve been feeling held down by the humidity, trapped under a puff of damp air, not to mention the piles that exploded out of the suitcases. I’ve been languishing in the inevitable letdown after a week of such fun.

It’s been a couple of years since I could say I had a truly good summer. A whole summery summer. I don’t know what this year will bring, but I must say, it won’t be a bad idea to seek out a coaster or two to get me through.


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