Due to a trip my father had won through his work my family found ourselves at Disneyland over a January weekend my sophomore year of high school.
As luck would have it, it was the weekend Star Tours was opening up so the park was open continuously from Friday morning until Sunday night and we were staying at the Disneyland Hotel. My parents basically gave my brother and I free reign to run around as we chose, as long as we stuck together or with a couple of friends who were also down for the trip.
Friday it was my brother and I, since the friends hadn't arrived yet. My brother wanted to ride Space Mountain. I was a ride wimp (I blame that on my mother, for whatever it's worth), and did not. He showed some compassion by working out a roller coaster training regimen for me.
We started on the Matterhorn. That was fun, I could handle it.
Then we moved on to Big Thunder Mountain. There were a couple of stomach-clenching moments in the ride, but it was fun. Even the stomach-clenching bits. This roller coaster thing wasn't so bad after all.
But now we'd worked up to the big one. Space Mountain. My brother assured me that if I could handle the others Space Mountain would be no different, it was just in the dark. The problem was my brother was not to be fully trusted. A few years ago I took his word on a roller coaster at Magic Mountain: "it doesn't go upside down, only sideways, you've got nothing to worry about." On that day he'd neglected to tell me that the roller coaster in question didn't have bars to hold you in, simply seatbelts. When the 12 year old me asked the 15 year old him why we wouldn't fall out on the sideways bits his answer was "G-forces" and when I asked him what a G-force was his response was "Don't worry." Now, I didn't fall out of the roller coaster, and the 36 year old me more-or-less knows why, but I worried a hell of a lot for that ride.
So, Space Mountain. Did I trust him or did I bag? The problem was, the line for the ride was about an hour long and he was pulling big brother privilege on me. I had three options: Go on the ride, wait outside the ride for him, or wait in line with him and bail at one of the many exits along the line for wimps just like me. I decided to at least wait in line, sure I'd bail out before we reached the end, but the power of the older brother is strong and I ended up going on the ride.
And loving it.
White-knuckled and screaming as I was, I found it a lot of fun. Rode it as much as possible as I could over the weekend.
The weekend was drawing to a close, and Sunday afternoon my dad asked if one of us would take him on Space Mountain. He didn't want to go alone, and the way my mom is when it comes to amusement park rides you'd be lucky to get her on Dumbo. I, of course, agreed, because I was a full-on Space Mountain convert at this time.
My father's last travels on Space Mountain had been nearly 10 years earlier - on another family vacation to Disneyland. (My brother got sick after the ride, if memory serves)
So we went. And it was great. And when we got off the ride my fifty-something father was looking a little pale in the face and as we were walking out of the building I remember his words well. "Wow, that ride is a lot faster than it was last time we were here."
Which, of course, it wasn't. It was just that my Dad had started to reach that age in his life where maybe the roller coasters aren't so fun anymore. And I knew coming to grips with that would be challenging, so I held my mocking to a minimum.