If you ever want to feel your age—I mean really feel every minute of your forty years in your bones and muscles and tendons and slowing deteriorating brain cells—I suggest you take your energetic, skinny little children to an amusement park that you have not been to since you were twelve years old.
When I was a kid, the company my dad worked for had their annual picnic at an amusement park across the Ohio River from my hometown in Santa Claus, Indiana called Holiday World. Back then it was Santa Claus Land, but they have since changed their name to incorporate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July-themed areas. We went there every summer when I was a kid. I had the best time riding all the rides, eating all the treats, and picking out Holiday World souvenirs. It was heaven in small-town Indiana.
The whole family with Santa.
We’ve never taken our children there before, but for some utterly inane reason (I blame my overly-enthusiastic sister-in-law), we decided to take them this year.
As expected, the kids had a blast. They loved the place! They rode rides, they ate Dippin’ Dots to their hearts content. They picked up grab bags and “mood” jewelry. They laughed as all the adults got drenched on the Ragin’ Rapids ride. Holiday World was everything to them that it was to me thirty years ago. Watching my kids trot around with rainbow lollipop residue covering their faces, I was there with my dad again. Holding his hand. Giggling as he got wet. Posing in front of the ancient Santa Claus statue with him. Sweating in the 97 degree heat as we listened to Christmas Carols blaring from loud speakers. For the first time since arriving in Kentucky last week, I felt my dad’s presence. I felt at home.
That is not to say that my Holiday World experience was the same as it was when I was ten years old. Far from it. For one thing, my ass barely—and I mean jammed-in-barely—fit on some of the rides. And thirty years ago, the 97 degree heat barely registered on my radar. This time, I was five seconds away from a debilitating heat stroke the entire day. Seriously. At one point, I felt more than a little faint standing in the shadow of The Legend roller coaster.
The twinnies with their “unicorn horn” lollies.
Speaking of The Legend—it is not the largest roller coaster there, but it has got to be the most traumatizing ride in the place. It is a wooden roller coaster that does nothing short of beat the hell out of you. I was almost in tears by the time it was over. And when I got off, I could barely walk. I have apparently—unbeknownst to me—developed a bit of spin-induced vertigo. For a good half hour after riding that coaster, I walked through that park like I could easily blow a 0.12% on a breathalyzer.
And on a somewhat related note, my twins are both apparently 47 inches tall. I know this because one must be 48 inches tall to ride most rides at Holiday World unaccompanied by an adult. Since most rides also seat two people, that meant that Ruanita and I were riding a lot of rides with Sophie and Nicholas. And every single ride they were tall enough to ride (some of the rides required that you be 48 inches tall to ride at all), spun in circles. Fast circles. Of course, the kids loved it. The mommies? Not so much. Ruanita and I walked around that park in a constant state of white-faced, nearly vomitous squeamishness. Good times!
So here is my advice to other forty year olds attempting to relive the glory days at the amusement park of your youth: Don’t do it. Should you ignore my advise and choose to do it anyway, I would suggest that you bring the following essentials with you:
- A wheelchair – Those concrete hills get to be a bit much
- A portable oxygen tank – You will need it, trust me
- A large dose of Dramamine – For spin-induced vertigo
- A tub of wet wipes – To wipe away your sweat and tears
- A mask – To hide the shame caused by jamming your forty-year-old curves into those six-inch metal seats
- An energetic 16-year-old – To ride the rides with your children, thereby reducing your diagnosable amusement park medical complications to mere heat stroke
If you follow these suggestions, you may—just maybe—survive your trip down memory lane.