Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Death Wheel

Last weekend, we visited Charlie's parents in Evansville. It was the last weekend of their annual Fall Festival and the girls have turned the event into a family tradition. We traipsed up and down Franklin Avenue riding kiddie rides and eating loads of unhealthy treats--kid paradise, for sure! Our last stop--and the one the girls had been anticipating all day--was the Ferris wheel. The line was a bit lengthy and the temperature was an unseasonable 90 degrees. We stood in line for about 30 minutes before reaching the cherished destination. We had watched the ride go around and around several times and I was looking forward to riding it simply for the breeze I knew it would provide. This particular Ferris wheel was equipped with carts that could seat up to 6 and you entered from one side through a small gate. We all climbed in and took our seats. As we waited for the ride to start up again, I could see utter delight on the girls' faces and Charlie and I exchanged a smile. It's so fun to fulfill a childhood dream.

I was fine until the ride started--yeah, that's right, I was fine for almost 2 entire minutes. As soon as the ride began its' ascent, I heard this terrible grinding noise that I was certain wasn't there before. We climbed up to the next stopping point and then paused perilously in the air. We were about the same height as some of the other rides and the girls were having a great time peering over the edges. Not me. No sir. I was clinging for dear life to the cold, metal pole in the middle of our basket. Said basket was rocking ever-so-gently as my children looked from side to side. I was certain we were about to plummet to our deaths. Charlie noticed the look on my face and the weird smile plastered there. I was breathing fast, almost hyper-ventilating, and I explained that I was just remembering how deathly afraid of heights I really am. He laughed a bit and said, "Be strong for the girls, honey."

Our cart was suddenly thrust higher. I was sure we were now just cheating death entirely. I looked around just long enough to see some rusted pieces of metal protruding from the inner workings of this death wheel. Now, we were higher than some of the buildings and the girls said, "Look, Mommy! We're as high as the birds!" Great. If only we had some wings or a parachute or something to save us from our doom. I was right, there was definitely a breeze up here but I was beginning to think a breeze was a bad thing. I was already clammy from the cold sweat that had developed all over my body. That breeze was making me feel downright nauseous. My death grip on the metal pole intensified as we climbed even higher.

We were at the top of the wheel now and were taller than some of the trees. Charlie was still telling me to be strong, but I felt like I might pass out. Please God, help me to keep it together. This is so embarrassing! The breeze was strongest at the top and so was my nausea. I tried to use the same mental imagery I use when we fly. I pretend that God's giant hand is holding the plane through the entire flight. This works in a plane because you can't see outside and the details can be left to imagination. Not so with this horrid contraption. I just couldn't convince myself that God's hands would be rusted out or dirty or appearing to be ready to disintegrate before my very eyes. The girls were waving at grandma and grandpa and I was thinking about vomiting. We began to descend.

That terrible noise was back and I just knew that the machinery was about to give out. This time we kept moving. Down, down, down, closer to the sweet earth only to be cruelly launched back into the air. Round and round we went for what seemed like hours. We would be so close to the ground that I could almost touch it and then would swoop back to the top. The carnival worker at the bottom kept giving me funny looks, like he couldn't figure out why I was hanging onto that metal pole so tightly. That pole had become my new best friend!

Eventually, they began to disembark the riders and our turn to get off this death wheel could not come fast enough for me. The girls groaned when it was our turn to get off, but I wanted to kiss the dirty, cigarette butt-filled, garbage-littered, worn-out ground. In fact, I wanted to curl up in the fetal position right next to the trash cans and port-a-potties. Ground is good. So, so good. The girls begged for another ride but one look at my pale face and knocking knees and Charlie knew what the answer was.

And so ended our annual adventure at the Fall Festival. Next year, I'll stick with the Carousel.

Thank You God for Your loving hands. Help me to know that I never need to be afraid when I am in them. In Jesus' name, Amen.