"The ride is finished now," called my older sister over her right shoulder," so you need to drive the car over the finish line." She indicated the direction of the finish line with her outstretched arm, while the other hand gripped the steering wheel. But I did not move a muscle and the kiddy car did not move either. I was frozen in my little vehicle.
It had been such a fun day! We didn't have amusement parks in Montana. There was a playground with a see-saw, a slide, and swings about eight blocks from where we lived, but it wasn't anything like this. Most of the rides I went on with only my sister; but, on a few, one of my parents came with us. What an adventure!
It was nearly time to head home but my sister had spotted just one more ride. As we approached the "start" line, I was excited, too. Cars that kids could "drive"! Actually, all the kids could do was push a "go" button on the floor, though, as the car traveled along a set track. The steering wheel did move left and right but it did not control the direction of the little car. As we approached the line of colorful kiddy cars, I was suddenly gripped by a seriously confusing revelation: There was only one seat, right in the middle of the front of the car, behind the steering wheel. No "passenger seat", no "backseat." How could that be? Where was I going to sit? I was too young to drive the car myself and I just knew my sister would want me to be in her car.
Things only got worse from this point on. While I was certain a three-year-old should not be old enough to drive even a kiddy car, I was repeatedly assured by all the adults that I was, in fact, not too young. They expected me to drive the car myself. There was no intention ever of putting me in the car my sister would drive. Talk about a shock!
The smile on the five-year-old's face as she picked out just the right color she wanted, made me think that she would find a way to take me with her, too. Instead, she came over to me, took my hand and led me over to the kiddy car just behind her chosen vehicle. I have no idea what color it was and probably didn't notice then either. All the while she was speaking to me of how I was going to be able to do this. I would not really be all by myself because she would be in the car just ahead of me and would lead me to where we needed to go. She would keep an eye on me and help me if I had trouble. I would like driving the car, she assured me… on and on she urged me as she opened my car door and helped me into the driver's seat. Donna pointed out the silver button on the floor by my right foot and told me just to push on that button when she said to push. She was still smiling, though I most certainly, was not. She was so sure that I could do it, that I wondered if I really could. My older sister just knew so much more than I did. Maybe this was one of those things a five-year-old knew? Time would tell.
We were each in our own car, aligned one after the other on the track. Then Donna's car started to move. Mine didn't. After a short time, she glanced over her right shoulder, just as she had promised she would, to see if I was following her. Fortunately, we were the only kids on the track at this time. My sister stopped her car, opened the driver's door and stepped out. I was so happy to see her coming over to my car, until I found out the reason was not to invite me into hers! Again, she pointed to the silver button on the floor and asked me to push on it right then. I did and the car began to move forward. Could her smile get any bigger? My own face still wore the mask of doubt but ahead moved my kiddy car until I had caught up with hers. Again, she placed herself back at the wheel, waved her arm at me like the foreman of a cattle drive and the two of us headed out to explore the kiddy car grounds in our separate cars. There was no other place we could have gone since the track so totally determined where we could drive but I just never did relax behind the wheel. I kept my eyes fixed to my sister, just ahead. Often she would turn her head to check on me and there it was… that huge smile! She was having the time of her life!
My parents and the extended family that had come with us on this outing were all able to watch the proceedings from back at the starting line. One can only guess at what they might have been thinking as they observed this bit of pre-school drama. To their credit, they did not intervene and let Donna try to handle the situation. Likely it was clear to them that Donna wanted to drive the little kiddy car and equally apparent that she would not do so if her little sister could not do it, too.
Finally we rounded the last curve and the finish line was dead ahead. I saw my parents and the other relatives standing there, cheering us on. (It had been a long day for the adults and they, no doubt, were looking forward to an end to all this fun!) Then I saw it and the trauma I thought was about to be over, took a gigantic leap off the charts! The "finish line" was not the simple white line painted across the asphalt. this finish line was decked out with long spikes all the way across! There was just no way to get out of the ride without crossing those spikes. They looked about three feet long but were, probably, only a few inches. They looked like they would spear an elephant when in reality they were not that thick. Their purpose was to prevent anyone from coming into the park from the finish line and not beginning at the starting point. But, all I saw, was the spikes that they were asking me to drive over. I moved my car ahead slowly, just behind my sister who was sorry to have the ride over and not seeming to mind the spikes one little bit. What's wrong with her? Didn't she see those things sticking out of the ground? My sister had stopped her kiddy car just before the spikes and my father leaned over them to speak to her. He told her that it was okay to drive over them because they would roll down as her wheels came over. Okay, no problem, she would just continue.
Donna turned, as before, and let me know that the ride was over now and I needed to cross the finish line. After all, Daddy had said it was okay and that the spikes would go down when we moved over them. Wisely, looking back at me, she knew that this would not be my take on things. Perhaps she also saw the fear in my big brown eyes because she opened the door of her kiddy car and came back to stand next to me. Stroking my back as gently as a mother would she tried to explain to me that it was okay; the spikes would not hurt me. I, on the other hand, had a clear picture in my mind of those long instruments of torture coming right through that kiddy car as I drove over them and a big "not going to happen" sunk deeply into my heart. No matter what my sister said, I just would not be convinced. When I began to cry, "Help me, Daddy! Help me," she resigned herself to failure, moving back to her own vehicle. Daddy waved for her to just come across and, since my eyes had been on her, maybe I would see that it would be okay? Well, my eyes were no longer on my sister; they were closed tightly and my crying quickly escalated to a screeching howl as I realized that my sister was moving her kiddy car across the line. I was there all alone.
I just could not believe it when I heard my father's voice,
"I am coming, Punkin. Daddy's coming to get you." I flipped open my eyelids and saw him take a long stride over the spikes and in a few such steps he was right there next to me. The tears of sweet relief flooded my shoulder-length rag curls as I nestled hard into my daddy's neck. I was safe. He would not let anything hurt me. All was quiet as we joined the others waiting to leave the kiddy car grounds. Behind us the employee was moving the little car over the fairly soft spikes. The palpable fear of the little girl had touched him, too.
I know that it had been a really fun day up to this point but, honestly, I cannot recall a single specific detail of the rest of the day… just this one last ride where my Daddy had crossed the mountain of torturous spikes to come to me!
****Introducing the Father… Coming Tomorrow