Every summer you would return to Kennywood. Like taking a week long vacation, your family would don their breeziest clothes, lather up in suntan lotion, and strangely choose to endure heat-induced exhaustion, overpriced food, and the long wait for two minutes of thrills.
But when you’ve passed eighteen, and your life refocuses to adulthood and stability, you don’t go every year – just once every few. And when you return, you don’t just worry that it might not be the same, that the rides won’t be as exciting, and that you’ll get irritable and bored. You also worry that the nostalgia trip might be dangerous, and that you’re trying to relive your youth. It’s a tricky situation, and it gets kind of emotional for some reason. There’s a dilemma in having fun.
We arrived just after opening, and our first tasks were to spin through dark tunnels, conquer high elevation phantom fears, and meet with friends. It all felt the same. The dips pulled your stomach up, the whips shook you around, and the speed made you scream and laugh in hysteria until your throat hurt.
The sun stuck to us, the midday chicken tenders strangely satisfied a seemingly unstoppable tiredness, the hysteria continued, the people watching got intense, and the glowing lights at dusk kept us company while reminding us that we should probably go home.
And when we did reach the parking lot, it felt like midnight. The sunset was beautiful – a purple and orange screen pushing behind the manufactured skyline of the amusement park. Feeling so tired made it a dream. We could barely think up anything to say.
Our last stop was a Mexican restaurant to pick up some huevos con chorizo. We sat at the bar during our last wait of the day. Its dim fluorescent light kept our wrecked senses at rest, and its oddly soothing glow was just like those dusk lights back at the park. Twenty four ounces of Dos Equis slid down our throat, pushing our exhaustion even further.
After dinner and another beer that was finished in a shower that washed off that sun, I felt pleasantly dizzy. I collapsed into my bed, still feeling the motions of the rides. I slept well that night. And I learned that the nostalgia, the revival of youth – it didn’t really matter. I had fun.
So what if I felt like a kid again?