Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ROAD TRIP (vacation) (07/02/15)
TITLE: The Carousel
By Leola Ogle
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“It’ll be a fun trip to Texas.” Kate forced a smile. “I want to see my parents, plus have quality time with the both of you. And the park. You know how special it is to me and the memories it holds.” Kate couldn’t stop the tears.
“Okay, road trip it is. But no crying from any of us. We’ll laugh and have fun,” Felicity said as the three gathered in a group hug.
Saturday they packed Kate’s van with the help of Felicity’s husband, Dylan. Dylan patted Felicity’s belly bump. “Take care of my wife and baby, Mama Kate,” he said. Compassion spilled from his eyes when he hugged Kate.
Two hours out of California and the sun became a fire-breathing dragon. The pavement shimmered with pools of liquid sunshine. After a stop for lunch and another hour on the road, the fire-breathing dragon became a gloomy, petulant child, weeping torrential tears that pounded the van with unrelenting force.
The weather didn’t dampen their spirits. They reminisced, played silly trivia games, sang loud and off-key with the radio, and they laughed. They laughed until their sides ached. The laughter kept them from thinking of their sadness.
They stopped frequently to sightsee on their journey. They visited the Grand Canyon. In Tucson, the car ahead of them in the drive-thru at Starbucks paid their order for them. In Albuquerque they bought breakfast for a homeless man sitting outside on a curb. Somewhere between Albuquerque and El Paso they stopped and gave water and snacks to a stranded family waiting for AAA to rescue them.
And they took pictures – lots of pictures. “For our memory book,” Kate said with shiny eyes and quivering chin.
They arrived in Dallas late afternoon after six days of travelling. Kate’s mother embraced each of her granddaughters before turning to Kate. “How are you, sweetheart?” she asked as she wrapped her arms around Kate.
Kate’s mother tilted her head backed to stare into Kate’s eyes. “Of course you’re not fine. But we’ll get through this because we’re family.”
It was when her dad hugged her that Kate fell apart. “Katie-bear, Katie-bear,” he kept whispering to her. He hadn’t called her Katie-bear since she was in elementary school.
The next morning, Kate’s family gathered in the park. The Kiddie Rides area had been closed down for the occasion. Park benches and picnic tables were arranged facing the carousel. Kate’s brother, Mark, addressed the small gathering, and then said a prayer. A few people, including Felicity and Cynthia, stood to share their thoughts. Then it was Kate’s turn.
“Thank you attending this impromptu memorial service. I especially want to thank my beautiful daughters for humoring me with this road trip to fulfill my wishes.” Kate waved her hand to encompass the park, and stopped with fingers pointing at the carousel. “This place holds so many wonderful memories for me. This carousel is the oldest in the state of Texas. Daddy brought me and Mark here all the time when we were kids because his dad brought him here when he was a boy.”
Kate drew in a trembling breath. “I loved hanging out in this park. It was here I fell in love. I was in high school and this handsome boy was running the carousel to help pay for college. After dating for two years, Craig took me out on the lake in a paddleboat and proposed to me.”
Kate paused. She felt bolstered by the love on everyone’s face. “Craig was always strong and healthy, and at fifty-five, too young for a heart attack. Without any warning, three weeks ago the love of my life was gone. We had just found out that Dylan and Felicity were expecting our first grandchild and transferring to Colorado. That news on top of Cynthia leaving for a two year mission assignment in Africa, her dream since high school, and then Craig was gone. I was in shock, numb, paralyzed with grief.”
Kate managed a shaky smile. “But I still have all of you. Today my daughters and I will take a paddle boat onto the lake and scatter Craig’s ashes. Then…then we will all ride the carousel.”
They did. They rode the carousel until their bottoms were sore. Their laughter mingled with the carousel's music. They loved, they mourned – they were family.
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