The Roller Coaster
By Darlene Hight
As my granddaughter stood in front of the "You Must Be This Tall to Ride" sign, her face dropped. All of the children got on the glider planes, but she was too tall!
I quickly weighed my options. My first thought was to throttle the sixteen-year-old ride attendant who made the decision based on 1/8th of an inch, but I went with my second thought.
"Come on, sweetheart. Let's go ride the roller coaster," I said, taking her arm and guiding her in that direction.
Instantly, her disappointment turned to giddy delight. "The Dragon's Tail!" she squealed.
As I realized what I had said, I underwent my own transformation from, "Now, that's all better" satisfaction to, "Are you out of your mind?!" terror.
My mind began to race like a runaway steed. I can't get on a roller coaster! Where is Mark? He would love to ride the Dragon's Tail.
My husband has always had to search for a roller coaster riding companion because, and I quote, "I am not getting on that thing!" But today, what other choice did I have? After all, this is my little princess; my precious firstborn granddaughter. I am Grandma. Is there anything that falls out of the realm of what a grandmother will do for her royal heirs? I must conquer! I will prevail!
Then it happened. I spotted the beast. Its serpentine rails winding around the park, mockingly awaiting our arrival. My resolve screeched to a halt, as I was pulled unwillingly toward it.
"Grandma, are you getting tired?" my granddaughter asked. "You're starting to breathe funny."
I needed to think. There must be a way out! Why did I say roller coaster? Of all the rides in the park, the only one you could come up with was the roller coaster?! What about the Haunted Castle ride? Surely, that would be better than the Dragon's Tail. That's it! It's worth a try.
"My sweet, would you rather ride the Haunted Castle ride?" I asked calmly.
"I promised to ride that with Dad." Her lilting voice and diamond-specked eyes pierced my heart, pressing me onward.
Foiled! Well, that's that! I will just have to ride. But wait...Grandpa! Maybe, there's still hope. Grandpa will ride with her. Where is he? Where art thou my knight, thou lover of yon roller coaster? Doest thou not know the grave danger that awaits me?
I scanned the crowd as we walked the final steps and presented ourselves to the gatekeeper. Standing in line waiting for our turn, princess pointed out the loopty-loops as her laughter danced over the noise. She was seemingly unaffected by the terror screaming past. My mind raced with various possibilities.
Oh look! There's the Enchanted Tea Cups. Would you rather ride them? No, that won't work! Did that sign say "Gray-haired Old Damsels Forbidden On This Ride--Even If They Color?" Please God, give me something!
I was beginning to feel the Dragons' hot breath on my face. The smell of diesel fuel assaulted my nose. I frantically searched the crowd for my knight in shining armor. Where is he?
I spotted him standing in front of the merchant of hotdogs, with a chilidog in one hand and a giant lemonade shake-up in the other.
"Look sweetheart, there's Grandpa! Why don't we go see if he wants to ride the roller coaster?" It had to work! I could feel myself breaking out in hives.
"Grandma! We're almost there!" She looked as if she might cry.
Well that's it! If I perish, I perish! There's nothing left to do. I must face death square on. This clattering beast is no match for a grandmother's love. I pushed forward determined. Nothing would stop me!
We inched closer and closer to the front of the line. I watched as the Serpent claimed each hapless victim. They moved forward, seemingly unaware of the danger. My ears developed a curious ring. Then, it was our turn, no turning back. The demon coaster, mouth wide open, had come to claim its prize.
I can't feel my legs! I can't move!
My granddaughter gave me a shove, which landed me, sprawled, in the belly of the beast.
Then curiously, as we climbed the first hill, my mind began to fill with noble thoughts. Yes, I hear she once rode the Dragon's Tail for the love of her granddaughter.
The car screamed over endless hills. I found myself shamelessly praying, "Please, let me live!"
Finally, it came to a stop and, as I climbed shakily off the ride, princess chirped, "Let's go look at our pictures!"
In case I didn't know that I was an ashen-faced example of fright with a frozen smile, the park graciously captured that on film. Standing there with my granddaughter, I began to imagine Princess telling all of her friends about how I had ridden the roller coaster with her. How many other grandmas would risk a near death experience for their beloved granddaughter? Maybe now that it was over, I was a little glad that Grandpa hadn't come to my rescue. After all, why should he get all the glory? I was feeling just a little closer to Jesus.
God's Word says in Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (NIV). Some people learn lessons easily, and other people, like me, seem to be a bit slower to learn. True, the roller coaster wasn't really a near death experience, but it should have been enough to knock the wind out of a haughty spirit. The wind didn't officially get knocked out until I spotted my grandson walking toward us with a big smile on his face and Grandpa in tow.
"Grandma, will you ride the roller coaster with me, too?" he pleaded.
I said that I was a slow learner but it didn't take me long to recognize that now was not the time to be prideful. In fact, Grandpa was welcome to the glory on this one. In fact, now was a perfect time to grovel. One trip on the roller coaster and one threat of a repeat was all that I needed. Yes indeed. I knew just what I needed to do. Perhaps, a rescue was just what was called for.
"You know what? Grandpa loves roller coasters! I bet he will ride with you. Wouldst thou my Prince?"
"Sure," he answered around a mouthful of hotdog.
They say that Chivalry is dead, but I know that it is not. It lives in the heart of my very own Knight--a little late perhaps, but still my hero.
DARLENE HIGHT is a writer who travels with her husband, Mark, across rural United States as he builds ethanol plants. She is editor of Copper Penny Press online magazine. http://www.copperpennypress.com. Be sure to check out her Rural Adventures page and drop her a note.