Saturday, August 18, 2012

Circle of Death turns into a top-of-the-world experience

As a kid growing up in Ohio, there were a surprising number of amusement parks to choose from for a state in the middle of nowhere: King’s Island, Geauga Lake, Sea World and Cedar Point.

It was during my youth that I started my life-long decision to avoid all rides that made me (1) convinced of the effects of gravity as I plunged to my death, (2) dizzy, and/or (3) want to (how shall I put this delicately?) return the corn dog and fries I had just eaten.

Okay, I may have tended toward the dramatic as a child, but a number of these rides had you spinning, going in 360-degree loops and dropping 300 feet in six seconds. I am not a fan of any of these activities, especially when all I have to separate me from the concrete below is a nylon belt over my shoulder and a wildly insufficient bar across my lap.

What did they take me for, a 10-year-old fool?

So, instead I hit the bumper car circuit with the all the other people – mostly grandmas.

Now fast forward a few years to last Saturday, the last day of the Douglas County Fair, and my own 10-year-old Lily had not yet attended. She couldn’t stop talking about going to the fair so she could experience the same things I did as a kid.

I’m not proud to admit that I had planned to avoid the fair completely by not driving past that area with Lily in the car for, oh, say two weeks. But I can’t control where her father drives with her in the car…

She kept asking to go, and I kept finding reasons to not go, and then she pulled out the “I’ve-never-been-on-a-Ferris-wheel-and-I’m-ready-now” card. The icicles around my hard heart melted and I agreed to take her first thing Saturday morning.

Here’s the deal, though: I had never been on a Ferris wheel either. Ever. (See bumper-car-only rule above).

The conversation in my head went something like this, “Eileen, it’s been long enough. You’re an adult now and have made it through far worse events in life than a possible death from Ferris wheel. Woman-up and take your daughter to the fair.”

So we went. And my plan was to pay for us to get in, pay for one trip on the Ferris wheel, go see the animals in the barns and avoid all other rides.

But when we got in line for the tickets we discovered it was bracelet day, which meant that for $23 we could ride all of the rides we wanted until our hearts were content or we lost our lunch. Huzzah!

So, we got the bracelet and lined up for the Ferris wheel. As we approached the line I got excited when I saw that you had to be a certain height in order to ride the Ferris wheel. Could it be possible that I didn’t yet meet the height requirement? Fear leads to fanciful thinking, apparently.

I blew away the height requirement and stepped into the line. The next 10 minutes were a blur as I talked non-stop to calm my fears of getting on the death trap. Poor Lily nodded, while looking at me quizzically, wondering where her usually-sane mother had gone. (Those of you who know me please stop laughing).

Before I knew what happened we were getting into a gondola THAT ROCKED and heading upward. Let me clarify: We were not only going around in circles, but rocking back and forth. “This was not in the brochure!” I wanted to yell.

Instead I pulled out my phone and started snapping pictures of Lily to keep my mind off our impending death. At one point I realized we were at the tippy-top when Lily said, “Look how pretty it is from up here.”

She was right. It was gorgeous. The views were breathtaking, but in a good way. More importantly, I was at the top of the world with my favorite little girl.

Every rotation found me calmer and calmer until I was …. wait for it … moving about the gondola to get a better camera angle. Yeah, we Burmeister girls totally rocked the Ferris wheel.

And after that? I followed Lily on every ride she wanted to go on. We spun, we flew sideways, we slid down a huge slide, and we created a wonderful memory. Me and my girl.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at Eburmeister.

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