Despite everything at Silverwood, my favorite ride has never been a fancy one. I'm not even necessarily sure what the proper name for it is, but I've always called it the swings. You get in - with a friend, if you're lucky - and you slowly begin to lift off and take flight. You can see the sky above you, always the perfect shade of blue, the people walking around below you, the vehicles traveling by on the highway that just look like Matchbox cars. You lean back, the wind rushes past you, you stretch your feet out in front of you - curl your toes inside your sandals and hope they don't fall off - and lose yourself for a few glorious moments in time.
It was the summer of 1994 when Monica and I went for a youth group retreat. A group of us - redheaded Greg Safford, his little sister Pam, Andrea Smith (a former friend whom I tried to reconcile with a few years later; she told you that being friends with me took too much effort), Monica and I. The group of us rode together in an RV that Jean, Pam and Greg's bedraggled, slightly crazy mother, was driving. There were more of us in other cars - Matt, his brother Nate, Torrey, an awkward dark-haired kid who never quite fit in no matter how hard he tried, Jeremy Affeldt and his type-A sister Nichole. This was the highlight of our summer, this is what we'd been waiting for. This was what we had to look forward to.
Monica and I headed for the swings.
The two of us got on, squeezed into one of the tiny seats together, tilted our heads back, stretched our feet out and let the wind wash us away. We felt like we were flying, she and I did. Nothing else mattered. We were two teenage girls - thirteen and fifteen - and still had to experience broken hearts, the pain that came from not being loved in return, so many nights spent crying behind a bedroom door, scribbling in a journal that you hid under your mattress...afraid to put even your deepest thoughts in your own diary because you didn't trust your parents. The only thing that mattered at that moment was the two of us, the wind rushing around us, the sky clear and blue, speckled with creamy white clouds.
It was the most perfect day I could have imagined. Me and my best friend, young, without a care, soaking up the sunshine during the most beautiful day (that I can remember) in the whole summer of 1994.
And then, ten years went past.
I'm twenty-five years old, a quarter of a century. Monica is two years younger, newly graduated from Multnomah Bible College, considering going to WSU to become a vet. My life is in shambles - I live with my ex-MIL in a disgusting attic room that makes me cringe to remember how vile and repellent it actually was. My husband is in prison for molesting his niece. I'm going on my first full year without him home and am finally able to get a full night of sleep without waking up in tears, after the brutal remembrance of being alone. I put on a good front, though...I tell everyone that without my faith I would have cracked a long time ago.
Here we are at Silverwood again.
And it's another beautiful summer's day.
There are the swings, the yellow paint not as bright as it was all those years earlier, but they are still as familiar and comforting as my thirteen year friendship with Monica. I look at her, she looks back at me. And we share a smile.
"So, what do you say?" I ask her. "For old times sake?"
We get in line.
The two of us squish in right next to each other, fasten the metal bar over us, and I lean back, curl my toes up inside my sandals and close my eyes. The wind rushes over me.
For a few blissful moments in time, I am fifteen again.
And I am truly happy for the first time in a very long time.