• Shannon Stocker

Rollercoasters Aren’t For Everyone

Tye (7yo, watching the washing machine spin) – “That would be fun if there was a ride like that.”

Me – “Perhaps, but you don’t ever want to climb inside.”

Tye (nodding) – “That would be bad.”

Me – “And you can’t ever put animals inside. Pets have died in washing machines before.”

Tye (briefly pensive) – “Except there are animals that live in your nose. Like leeches.”

When I was a kid, I never understood people who didn’t ride rollercoasters. My brother and I raced toward the end of a chain of people, bouncing in anticipation of a 90-second ride that was worth a 90-minute wait in 90-degree temperatures. We pitied the poor souls left behind, who waved and searched for a shady spot to pass the time. Or maybe, we thought, they would find some lesser ride that didn’t shoot adrenaline through their veins. Whatever they were doing, it didn’t make sense to me.

I lived for rollercoasters. And anyone who didn’t was obviously out of his mind.

*****************************************************************************

Ever since my son could toddle, he’d climb out of the bathtub asking to be wrapped in a towel. Even to this day, he begs, “Quick, Mama, quick! Keep me warm!” He’s eight years old and fully able to bathe himself, but he still wants me to wrap him up when he’s done. I’ll sit on the closed toilet lid and oblige him, partially annoyed at his neediness, partially clinging to these days that will be gone too soon. Once swaddled, he bends over both my legs and I sway them back and forth, rubbing and patting his back like a baby.

But today, I was transported.

I am his age—maybe younger. I am bent over my father’s knees. Sobbing. Pleading. Sobbing. “Please, Daddy, no!” My arm flies behind me, and my palm catches the brunt of the belt’s force. It stings less than the tender, bruised flesh on my bottom.

“Take your hand away, Shannon.”

“Plea-ea-ease,” my voice catches between sobs. “Nooo…”.

“TAKE YOUR HAND AWAY,” he shouts.

I do as I’m told. He will add to the total if I don’t.

Seven.

I count the promised lashes in my head.

Eight.

I cannot tell if each whip stings more or less than the last. I whimper.

Nine.

“This hurts me more than it hurts you,” he lies.

Ten.

I stand gingerly, knowing that I’m bleeding again. My fingers brush against the welts as I inch my pants back up. He knew he was hurting me.

But he kept going anyway.

I walk away, hating him. I hear him thread his belt back through the loops of his pants. My eyes harden, focusing forward. Only forward.

Blinking back tears, my son’s outline suddenly comes back into focus. My legs have stopped moving; my hand rests squarely in the middle of his back. Still.

He stands, assuming I’m done, and wraps his arms around me.

“Thank you, Mama. I love you googolplex.” It’s his favorite new expression, and it sucks me back into the present.

“I love you more.” It’s all I can think of. He grins and kisses my cheek, knowing he’s won.

“Do you want me to comb your hair?” I ask.

“No. I wanna do it,” he says. He then hangs his own towel, procures his own pajamas, and combs his own hair.

He is oblivious to my pain.

As he should be.

*****************************************************************************

So maybe they weren’t out of their minds.

Maybe he didn’t want to ride because someone forced him to ride over and over when he was little. Maybe she didn’t want to ride because she was afraid of heights. Maybe he had a heart condition. Maybe she was pregnant.

Maybe I just didn’t know their stories.

Maybe, just maybe, my perception was nothing more than that. My perception. And just because it is mine, doesn’t make it right.

It simply makes it mine.

Never once in all my years have I met someone exactly like me. In fact, very few people have fully understood me. People question my tattoos, my financial choices, my diet, my exercise habits (or lack thereof), my choice to leave a lucrative career, my houseful of pets—every priority that makes me… me. Everywhere I look, people are judging.

Just like I did.

Just like I do.

I don’t wear a hijab. I married a man. I am white and will never understand the prejudice my black friends face on a daily basis. My children cannot empathize with poverty. I am a woman. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape as an adult. I have a chronic disease called RSD.

I do not spank my children.

These things don’t define me. But they shape my story and are shaped by my story. MY story. Not the “right” story, not the way everyone else “should” live their lives, but my story, and my story alone.

So if you want to hang back while I sweat in a long line to feel that sweet, sweet rush as I plummet down a hill with the wind threatening to rip my hair out of its ponytail, then hang back. The exact same ride that makes my heart pound with excitement may make yours palpate in fear. I get it. Maybe you prefer the merry-go-round, and that’s ok.

Rollercoasters aren’t for everyone.

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NATURE’S CIRCLE

I’ve not entered Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PreciousWords contest before, but felt moved to write this yesterday. If you’d like to enter as well (or if you’d like to comment on my entry), you can do so her

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