Sometimes We Can’t Help Them – But Sometimes We Can

Kevin and I, good parents that we are, went on the 8th grade class trip to Six Flags amusement park. There is a girl in the class who hates my daughter. HATES her. This girl told Eyrna she’d stab her in the jugular with a knife if she could get away with it. I don’t know what makes children this angry in life, but I doubt Eyrna is the only cause of this girl’s anger. It doesn’t matter — my child is suffering at school. Since February, every day has been hell. She doesn’t want to go to school in the morning. She can’t sleep at night. Her closest friend opted out of this class trip to Six Flags, so Eyrna was pretty much on her own. We decided that we didn’t want her confronted by this situation in a theme park, with so few parents watching. So we decided to make ourselves available to join the small group of parent chaperones.

The kids had a half-day of school so they only had 3 hours in the park. We let Eyrna go off on her own, but I was anxious. After about an hour, she called me. I could hear the misery in her voice. Her one friend on the trip, P., did not like rollercoasters and P. kept getting phone calls from Eyrna’s enemy, urging P. to leave Eyrna and join her group. P. was about to leave Eyrna on her own. Eyrna had not gone on any roller coasters, though she wanted to. We’d bought her a FlashPass so she wouldn’t have to wait in the long lines, and now one of us would have to go with her. Kevin and I are both afraid of heights. But, hey, I passed my Second Degree Black Belt test last Saturday, I could do this. And Kevin is the kind of man who would suffer the rack for his child.

The first ride she wanted to go on, naturally, was the brand new Green Lantern. Just looking at the neon-green tracks soaring into large loops up into the white-hot sky made me want to barf. With the 2-person FlashPass, Eyrna and I were at the front of the line in less than five minutes. As we were standing behind the metal barriers waiting to board, a dark-haired boy standing next to us started up a conversation. He’d been waiting in the regular line for almost an hour. He was alone. His sister didn’t like rollercoasters. They were from Colorado, visiting his aunt. Would we mind if he joined us on the ride? Each row had four slots, where you were strapped in vertically, like a person about to get launched into outer space. Join us, I said, we’d be delighted. Eyrna blushed, slightly embarrassed. The ride practically gave me a coronary. Flipped upside down, side to side, loops, drops, everything you can imagine they would do to an astronaut in training. As we staggered off, I pulled out the FlashPass; I’m not stupid, I know what counts in an amusement park.

“Oh, wow, you guys got a FlashPass, you are so lucky!” the boy said. He had a handsome, open face, a charming smile. I could tell Eyrna thought so, too.

“Hey,” I said to the boy, “how about the two of you ride the next one without me? I don’t love these rides, I have to tell you.”

“Mom!” Eyrna said, laughing, “We don’t know him and he doesn’t know us!”

“What do you need to know? My name is S., I’m from Colorado Springs, I’m sixteen, I’m in ROTC, I have a sister. I’m going to join the Navy.”

“I’m going to join the Navy too,” Eyrna said. “I’m going to do NROTC in college.” He wanted to know what she intended to do in the Navy and she gave him some long, complicated explanation about Tomahawk missile defense. I stepped a little away, giving them room.

“Have you been on Nitro yet?” he asked her.

No, she had not. She looked at me. “Go,” I said, “Daddy and I will wait for you at the exit.”

Off they went, running, with the FlashPass in Eyrna’s hand. At the exit to The Green Lantern, Kevin was waiting, holding my bag and my bottled water. He wondered where Eyrna was off to in such a hurry. I told him we’d met a boy from Colorado on the ride and he was going to go with her on the next one — the dread Nitro.

“Thank God,” Kevin muttered. “I’d pay him to go with her so I wouldn’t have to.”

We followed at a distance and waited for them at the Nitro exit. With the FlashPass, they were out in less than ten minutes. A group of boys from her class passed by. “Eyrna! Hey, Eyrna! Who’s your friend?”

“A friend,” she replied lightly.

Their last ride before he had to go meet his aunt and sister was El Toro, an old-fashioned roller-coaster on a high wooden scaffolding that soared into the sky. Kevin and I waited down below and listened to the passengers scream on their plummeting descent.

When Eyrna and S appeared a few minutes later, her face was bright red and she was smiling.

The boy shook our hands and thanked us. He gave Eyrna a hug.

As the boy ran off to meet his family in the parking lot, Eyrna whispered to me, “Thank you, Mommy. This was one of the best days of my life.”

Sometimes we can’t help them, but sometimes we can.

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