Our first day here at Disney World, we tried to go on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it was closed “for refurbishment”, so we decided to try Splash Mountain instead. In addition to being a ride that was right there where we were, it promised to cool us off a bit. Going from 30ºF to 90ºF in the space of a day was a bit rough on everyone.
Carolyn and Uncle Jim sat in the front seat of the log boat, and Rebecca sat between me and Kat in the next seat back. Things started well enough as we splooshed and bobbed around bends, but fairly near the beginning of the ride, you get a glimpse of its (sort-of) end: a fifty-foot drop down to a splash pool. Rebecca, seeing a log full of people fly past us down the ramp, the screams of its riders trailing in its wake, wasn’t at all happy. She switched instantly from being amused at the water occasionally splashing her parents to scared of what was going to happen.
The various animatronic displays along the way helped distract her, but she kept returning back to her fear of the big hill. Kat and I soothed her as best we could, telling her it would be all right. She generally accepted this, calming down until the next time she remembered the big hill that lay ahead. She never cried, exactly, but the fear was still there, an almost physical thing at times.
“I don’t wanna go down the big hill!”
“Honey, it’s all right. It’s going to be okay. We’re right here. Mommy and I will keep you safe.”
“No, I don’t wanna, it’s too scary.”
“I know, sweetie. I know you don’t. But there’s no need to be afraid. It’s coming and it will happen and then it will be over. Try to enjoy all the little shows before.”
“Daddy, please let me get off the ride.”
“I can’t, honey. If there was a way to get off, we’d take it, but there isn’t. The ride goes where it goes, and we’ll go with it, together.”
“I wanna get off this ride!”
“I wish we could get off, Rebecca, but we’re on the ride now and we have to take it all the way to the end. I know you’re scared, but we’re right here with you. We’ll keep you safe, sweetie. You don’t have to be afraid.”
We’d arrived at the bottom of the last climb, the one that would take us to the big drop. She looked up the ascending tunnel into the bright, bright light streaming down, and shrank back, quivering, her eyes wide with fear. She knew the moment was close. I leaned in next to her, keeping my voice level and light.
“I know, Rebecca. I know. I know you’re scared, but it’s going to be all right. It’s going to be all right. It’ll be all done very soon. Mommy’s here, and I’m here, and we’re with you until it’s over. We’ll stay with you all the way to the end, all of us together. We’ll be right here with you. Always.”
The log was drawn up the hill, the drop coming closer and closer, relentlessly. My arm around her shoulders, Kat’s arm around her shoulders, both of us hunched toward her tiny, trembling body pressed against our sides; and as we came to the precipice, she shut her eyes and squeezed our hands tight.