“You have to be ‘THIS TALL’ to ride Space Mountain.”

My mom and I went to Disney World when I was five years old.

It was dark and I was still in my pajamas when we left the house for the airport. On our way, we got a flat tire. While my dad changed the tire, my mom seized the opportunity to change my PJs for daytime clothes (she wastes no time). My dad dropped us off at the airport and mom and I had to run.  My mom was, is, and always will be an athletic individual that ran track in high school and never slowed down for anything. I was FIVE.

I kept up. Mom kept track, until the escalator. She took off climbing those moving steps like a hurdler in a 1000-meter dash! I stood at the bottom, in awe and bewilderment as to who was going to hold my hand while I rode the most terrifying ride in my little life. “C’mon! Just hold onto the rail and step out!” My response: “I don’t think so.” A woman, a stranger, walked up beside me and asked if I needed help. I said something to the affect of: I am here, my mom is there, I need to close that gap. She held my hand and ensured my safe journey up the escalator to my waiting mother. That 15 second escalator ride at Austin-Mueller airport was my first “roller coaster.”  There was no height restriction, no safety harness, my mom was waiting for me at the end, but I still needed someone to hold my hand.

We made our flight and landed in sunny Orlando. Everything was amazing! Everything was perfect from the train we took to the hotel, the Mickey Mouse pancakes, the tangible cartoon characters who signed autographs, and the coolest space museum in a mountain. It was ‘SO COOL’ that I barely passed the height requirement to enter (to be honest, I was about an inch too short). My mom and I had never heard of a museum with a height requirement, so this was going to be pretty special. Famous Last Words.

My mom, my hero, the bad-ass, is terrified of roller coasters.  We had found ourselves in a line for Space Mountain with no escape. This was my mom’s ‘escalator’ moment. I climbed in the front seat and she took the one behind me. It lasted all of 2 and a half minutes and my mother screamed all of 2 minutes.  The ride came to an end and we had survived.

As I got older I came to realize that it is much easier to be brave for someone else, regardless of height restrictions.  I found it second nature to be my little brother’s protector in the ball pit of the playground. If a friend was in distress, I wanted to do everything I could to solve their problems. After surviving Space Mountain, all I could think about was holding my mom’s hand (not to be confused with her holding mine).  I wanted to be brave for her.  In being that older sister, that problem solver, that holder of hands, I found my own issues put into perspective and I was able to be brave for others while learning to be brave for myself.

When someone is about to step onto an escalator, board a roller coaster, say ‘hello’ to a love,  or ‘goodbye’ to the same, be strong for them. As you affect others, be ready for others to affect you. Hold their hand, offer a shoulder, BE BRAVE.

M.

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