April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Lag B’Omer: A (Not So) Great Adventure

If you were to check out all the beautiful family photographs of our recent family trip to Epcot, it would become immediately obvious that everyone looks thrilled, sporting huge smiles to match their bright t-shirts. Young and old, toddler and teen, they are all so happy to be squashed in colorful cars poised to set off on yet another ride. Everyone, that is except for me! Instead, I’m MIA, whether I am outside watching the baby, visiting the gift shop, or simply taking a long walk; doing anything actually in order to avoid hurtling through the air. I’m too old now to yield to any pressure. You see, I learned my lesson a long time ago and it’s been etched in my mind ever since…

Lag B’Omer 195?

Wimp! Nerd! In those days they were the insults I feared the most. Here we were on the long-anticipated school trip to Steeplechase Park, a place of thrills for my classmates, but a house of horrors for me. Instead of looking forward to a fun-filled day like my excited friends, I was numb with terror. Merely the thought of spinning around on a giant Ferris wheel made me feel faint, while the concept of plummeting to earth from the Parachute Jump traumatized me. The truth was whether it was the Cyclone or the Tilt-a-Whirl, I detested those rides. There was no way to fake it. I was petrified.

I could never understand the attraction amusement parks offered. True, the huge park filled with colorful signs and lively music seemed welcoming. But the festive ambience was deceptive, at least to me. What could be satisfying about falling from a high place or plummeting into a dark pit? Even the motion of a carousel was enough to make me nauseous. And yet here I was trapped in my own worst nightmare, surrounded by hundreds of adolescents screaming in joy as they sat in the gaily colored cars.

“C’mon Es. The Caterpillar ride is nothing. I promise. It just goes around a small track and then they turn out the lights or something. That’s it. You’ll love it…” My friends were urging me to join them. They were waiting…As for me I was 11 years old and I had no choice but to go along with them.

The ride started out benignly enough as the car slowly ambled around the track. I took a deep breath. This wasn’t so bad after all. The girls were right. I could do this. Just as I really began to relax, a smelly canvas cover reeking of mildew popped over our heads

As I tried to breathe, the cars accelerated, dipping and twisting us into the now total darkness. I screamed and screamed; Ma, save me! Help me! Oh, my God! Help!—all the while gripping the flimsy rail in front of me with such force that I thought it would surely crumble and send me flying into the abyss. Finally, thankfully, after one last horrifying lurch, it was over and we shuddered to a groaning stop. Trembling with shock, I inched my way to the exit, steadying myself on the side of each seat on the way out.

I did it, I thought shakily. I went on a ride. Now they would leave me alone for the rest of the day. That’s when the hoots and the whistles began. Everyone was pointing at me as I suddenly became aware of an unwelcome breeze fanning my legs. Wait, what’s with my legs? “Look at that girl. Over there,” shouted a teenaged boy gleefully. “Over there. She dropped her skirt. Or maybe she just forgot to get dressed this morning.”

Yes, they were pointing at me. My beautiful new pink and white polka-dotted skirt, bought especially for this day, had simply imploded and now lay crumpled around my ankles on the grass like a deflated balloon. The large shiny white button which had fastened it to my waist must have broken off when I screamed, and its traitorous zipper had failed to work on its own.

So there I was, a Bais Yaakov girl, standing skirtless in full view of every man, woman and child in Steeplechase Park. Quickly, I pulled the offending garment back over my head and blinded with tears and embarrassment, ran to the parking lot where the school buses waited. And that is where I hid for the rest of the school trip.

Soon the story of the “skirt” and the girl who lost it would go on to become legend in our school. A picture of the pink and white fabric crumpled on the floor even made its way into the humor section of our sixth grade yearbook, the equivalent of Facebook at that time. That memorable day had only one good result. It was probably then when my obsession with the nuances of language really began. After all, hadn’t I provided everyone with a new and enriched meaning for the words “Amusement” Park?

Since that Lag B’Omer, I never went on a scary ride again. And not even my family can convince me otherwise.

Estelle Glass, a Teaneck resident, is a retired educator who is happily writing her own essays.

By Estelle Glass

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