Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Three, Two, One...FLY!"...by Jim Terry

Traditions are always a lot of fun. …Like the birthday cake with the birthday, the ring with the engagement, the presents with Christmas or Hanukkah, the turkey with Thanksgiving dinner or the peanut butter with jelly!  Traditions can extend for years or in some cases, may just be beginning.  Some can be very "traditional" and others "non-traditional." 

One of my favorite non-traditional traditions as a child and as a young man was our annual trip to Lagoon amusement park just north of Salt Lake City.  
 It has now been years since I have been there, but I thought it was a pretty "cool" amusement park at the time.  Of course it has all the games for you to win those overpriced stuffed animals. Not overpriced at the beginning of the game but by the time you finally won the BIG ONE, you literally were “breaking the bank” so to speak. I think I may have spent at least half the cost of a college education over the years trying to win my favorite stuffed animals as a kid. 

I also knew better than to be a competitor and waste my money against my sister Lora at the game “Whack-A-Mole.”  It’s a simple game where hydraulics lift little moles out of five or six holes in an area that is a three foot square area.  And as they quickly rise up, you simply “WHACK” them HARD and “WHACK” them as fast as you can with a baton that looks like it has a boxing glove on the end of it. 
…As the competitors would approach with confidence, I would just sit back and watch older teens and grown men think that this “young girl”-- again being my sister Lora--couldn’t beat them.  I am also sure they would say to themselves as they placed their money down to play…”just like taking candy from a baby."  Surely an easy win so they could give ‘their girl’ a stuffed animal.

Let me just put it this way, Lor truly rewrote and redefined the “candy from a baby” phrase.  It was more like “step up to bat and be OBLITERATED!”  It still makes me laugh to this day when I think of it...the look of the teen boys and men that left Whack-A-Mole wondering what had just happened in knowing that they had just been beaten by a “GIRL” in front of their girl. :o)

Lagoon also has some amazing rides.  The Wild Mouse was one of my favorites.  It would feel as though the little two-seater car you were in on a roller coaster-like track would almost fall off of the edge at each and every turn.  The Colossus, The Tidal Wave, the log ride, Dracula’s Castle and the Jet Star II we also some of my favorites.  I was amazed one year, however, that my brother Richard and I were able to talk my Mom into going on the newest attraction in 1995 named “THE SKY COASTER.” 

The Sky coaster is a giant steel arch that extends from the ground and tops out at 150’.  In the middle of that arch, they have cables that are suspended and reach to only 6 feet above the ground below. They then put you in a harness, hook you to the before mentioned cables and hoist you up and back to one of two support towers that are also 150 feet tall.  As the pulley that hoists you, your Mother and your brother stops, and you dangle back and forth above the ground, realizing that you are now suspended 150 feet in the air, you literally start to question yourself and the decision you just made.  You feel your hands start to tighten, a small drip of sweat from your brow and your heart begins to beat faster and deeper... so much so you can feel it in your chest and can hear your heartbeat in your ears.  As your concentration becomes more intense with the anticipation of the drop, you hear from the ground below on the PA system, "GO THE BIG KAHUNA!"  "Thanks Lor" for the comedic relief, but in just seconds you know you will be headed towards the ground at 80 mph.  Finally the moment when you hear the announcer say: “Three, Two, One….FLYYYY----------------!” 

 I must admit that when I had to pull the ripcord at the top of the tower so we could “FLY”, I literally thought I had pulled the wrong thing.  There was a moment or two of complete weightlessness where it felt like I had detached the harnesses that held us all secure to the cables overhead.  If my inner monologue at the time had become an outer monologue, I’m sure there would have to be some editing to this video (several four-letter words like “crap” and “gosh” entered my mind), I was literally “scared to death” until I could feel the harnesses once again begin to support our weight as we sped towards the ground, swung out over the crowds beneath us and were finally able to “FLY!”

In the video below, you can hear my Mother say “Mother of the year.”  …Yes, Mom you got Mother of the year award for sure.  For those of you that do not know, my Mother was deathly afraid of heights, but she loved to fly. Kind of a funny contrast don’t you think?  It reminds me of a friend who says “I hate the ocean but I love to scuba dive!”…Again this is why Richard and I were so amazed we were able to talk Mom into going with us on the Sky Coaster this particular day.  I think she looked at the bigger picture in this situation, or the end result, and that is how Richard and I were able to share this memory with our wonderful Mother. She was afraid of heights but in the end she knew she would be flying and that is how she conquered her fear of heights that day.

TRADITION…(sigh)….so many wonderful memories…so many fun times…so many???  What are your memories and traditions?

I’m noticing as I age, that months are becoming seconds and years are becoming minutes. Remember to cherish those moments and those traditions we all hold dear, and always look forward to the end result. I'm sure you will find yourself laughing, loving and living. Because as that countdown begins with “Three”, then “Two”, then “One”…remember in the end to always “FLY!"