While we were standing in a long line for the Matterhorn on our recent trip to Disneyland, we found ourselves with these girls in line behind us. Steve calls these girls my posse and my entourage.
They were about 10 years old, members of a girls’ dance group, and at Disneyland celebrating one of their birthdays. One of the girls, the dark-haired one, was very nervous about riding the roller coaster, while her friends were putting on excited faces, but also kind of nervous. I talked to them off and on while in line, trying to get them past their nervousness and to a point where the one girl wouldn’t bail at the last minute.
The dark-haired girl told me it had been about 6 years since she’d been on a roller coaster, to which I expressed a bit of surprise and asked how old she was since there were height requirements on these things, after all. That’s when I found out their ages and the girl admitted her earlier roller coaster had been a “baby roller coaster”.
Here I am explaining that the Matterhorn went fast, but didn’t do loop-de-loops or have huge hills, and was more of a small up-and-down hill kind of ride. The dark-haired girl started copying my motions of the up-and-down flow.
As we got closer to the ride, and the dark-haired girl’s nervousness started to ramp up, I asked the girls what kind of dance they did. Mostly modern, jazz, a little hip-hop. I asked if they knew how to do the polka; we were in the structure and listening to the never-ending loop of Matterhorn polka music. Of course they didn’t, so I taught them the basic 1-2-3 step real quick and we spent a few minutes polkaing in line as we edged closer to the ride.
Finally, just as we were a few people away from being loaded on board, the dark-haired girl expressed her nervousness again, and I told her I knew she was nervous and understood it, but that the ride was a lot of fun and I expected she’d have a big smile on her face at the end.
Steve and I boarded our car while the girls waited to board the next train.
As we were getting out of our car at the end, I heard a shout from the train pulling in behind and looked back to see all three girls, huge smiles on their faces, shouting to me about how much fun the ride was, “it went so fast!”.
I shouted back, “I knew you’d love it!” We waved, and we went on our way.
In and of itself, this is a nice story. But the whole of it brought back a memory that I think of frequently when I’m riding a roller coaster. When I was about their age, my brother Geoff took me to Six Flags Great America. I’d never ridden a real roller coaster before, and he was going to take me on the Demon for the first time. At the time, the Demon was one of those rides where two people sat in the same seat, one directly in front of the other, like the Matterhorn used to be.
I was super nervous and wanted to bail at the last minute. I was practically on the verge of tears. Geoff wasn’t going to force me to go on the ride, but he assured me I’d have a great time, that he would be right there, and I had to get past my fears and ride this one if I wanted to ride any other roller coasters. So, I settled in between his legs, leaned into his chest, and grabbed onto his knees for dear life.
And I loved it. We immediately got back into line to ride it again. Then we rode other roller coasters throughout the day. This began my love-affair with roller coasters and other thrill rides that even Steve won’t go on with me.
While I think of this memory with relative frequency when at amusement parks, my interaction with these girls, easing them through their nervousness to the point where they could get past their fear and learn to love roller coasters, brought it back more powerfully.
This is one of my fondest memories of Geoff, and it was in my mind as I was talking to these girls. They may not hold me in their memories in the same way, but I hope I was a good big “sister” as I remembered my big brother.