Roller Coaster of Love

“It’s totally safe,” she argued. “We’ll have an amazing time.”

Were we tempting the darkly ironic forces of fate with an activity that was completely frivolous and privileged? Or was it the opposite: Did my sister’s accident serve as a sort of horrific insurance policy for my family that nothing bad would ever happen to us at an amusement park again?

The seduction of telling my daughter we were going to Disney World and the self-help opportunity to conquer my fears won out. I said yes.

When the plane touched down in Orlando, I was seized by a rare bout of carpe diem and promised my daughter that I would ride every single ride she wanted to go on.

My first ride? Space Mountain, which I’d dreamed of riding as an astronaut-obsessed child, and while the jolting turns didn’t do my bad neck any favors, I was actually on a roller coaster in the darkness and not hating it.

And I didn’t stop there. I rode Tower of Terror like a boss and said so, and then was duly informed by my daughter and my sister that no one had used that phrase in a very long time, and could I please never use it again? We had dinner in the pale blue castle that I’d seen on the Wonderful World of Disney TV broadcasts every Sunday night of my childhood. As my daughter was eating a build-your-own-cupcake for dessert, the fireworks started — exploding blossoms of silver and gold right behind the windows — and the look on her face was the definition of bliss.

I did have a bad moment on the iconic flying Dumbo ride where I wished to be someone else, someone who relished sailing along in the night sky with her dazzled child, not a woman with a false grin clamped on her face envisioning a team of paramedics tearing through the crowd, accompanied by screams and sirens, because one of the elephants had broken off and sent its riders crashing to the ground.

The last day of our trip we rode Expedition Everest, a roller coaster that, as the name suggests, is tall. Very tall. To me, it seemed like a grander version of the roller coaster my sister was injured on, closed down for decades now, though still my personal Voldemort: I will not say its name. As we waited in the long, serpentine line for Expedition Everest, the people in front of us raved about the view from the top of the highest artificial mountain in the world, and how excited they were to ride again!