Fly me to the Moon

Would Shaina enjoy a theme park? The question came with an offer of a ticket. Would she? I was sceptical. Shaina loves people but grows uneasy in a crowd. She adores music but recoils from loud noises. I was sure she would panic from the roar of the rollercoasters and the screams of the people riding them. We politely declined the offer to take her a year ago.

Then, a few weeks back, we were offered again. Our family got free tickets to visit Joburg’s famous theme park, Gold Reef City. Our children from overseas were in town, and we figured it would be a fun-filled family outing. Maybe Shaina would enjoy it after all.

I made sure we were at the park early. I wanted to get in as much time as possible before Shaina’s daily naptime. I also hoped earlier would mean quieter, allowing us to ease her into the theme park experience. I really wanted her siblings to enjoy themselves and hoped Shaina would play ball. A dozen disaster scenarios played in my mind. We could arrive at the park, and Shaina would refuse to leave the car. We could get her through the gate, only to have her insist on leaving when she would hear the first rollercoaster screams. She could refuse to go on any of the rides. Assuming she agreed to go on a ride, what if she insisted on getting off in the middle? She could collapse into a tantrum in the middle of the park. Those and other trainwreck scenes flashed through my mind as we parked.

“Look, Shaina, there’s a helicopter!” Her brothers were thrilled to see a chopper land next to us as we cruised into the parking lot. She was unimpressed. The droning rotor blades set her on high alert. Despite that, she agreed to leave the car and follow us into the park. The entrance we chose led directly under the Golden Loop ride. Shaina froze as the coaster rushed over our heads. We were not doing well. We gently coaxed her to keep moving towards the ticket booth. While we waited for our tickers, she grew defiant and nagged to go home. Her siblings’ disappointed faces reminded me that I had to push her to try.

I wheeled her towards the kiddie’s rides, promising to accompany her on any ride she chose to try. My promise was upended by the bold signage over each ride: “No parents allowed past this gate”. Uh oh!

I needn’t have worried. The Gold Reef City staff were exceptional. They welcomed her by name (they couldn’t have heard us say “Shaina” more than once, but made sure to catch her name and use it). They took her by the hand and invited her brother, Yudi, to join her on the mini Ferris Wheel. She loved every second. Next, they lifted her into the cockpit of a bright red Piper. As her plane lifted into the air, she laughed and squealed at the top of her voice. We stood and watched as she whizzed around, convinced even the sky could never limit her.

Shaina disembarked with a broad smile, ready to make the most of her day at the amusement park. She “drove” the Dodge ‘Em cars with the ride operator as her chauffeur. She giggled as people spun around on the teacup ride. She loved watching the Marimba band buskers. Her highlight was going with me on a wild tube ride, which left her soaked and ecstatic.

My highlight was watching her fly. She believes she can. And she does.

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

6 thoughts on “Fly me to the Moon

  1. Pingback: Fly me to the Moon

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