This past weekend was another one of those pivotal moments where my husband’s absence was keenly felt, and I was required to step out of my comfort zone and fly (semi-) solo. Here in “theme park central”, the Halloween holiday is already well underway and we decided to attend Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. My older daughter and her boyfriend were visiting, and my son brought his girlfriend, which meant I was very clearly the oldest of the group and bona fide fifth wheel of the evening, as my younger daughter was working.
While we waited for the gates to open, K and I were talking about the last time we had been as a family, which was the only time my husband and I had gone to the event. We laughed at the memories of how frightened my then 10 or 11 year old son had been when a (prop) chainsaw had been started up right behind him causing him to take off running faster than I’d ever seen him run before or since, and how Norman Bates’ mother kept following my oldest around simply because she was clearly freaked out (believe me, these actors smell fear, but that’s what the place is for, of course).
Then we spoke about how I had never been targeted during this event (or similar ones), while she was often picked out from a crowd for special scaring attention. I surmised that it was because I was always very clearly “attached” to my husband, often clinging to his arm as we strolled the scare zones. I asked “who was going to bother me with Daddy by my side?” My daughter then wondered aloud if last night would be different.
No sooner had we stepped through the turnstile and re-assembled as a group after they began letting people in, that I turned around and a large-toothed, grinning overall-wearing, faux-hock sporting man revved his chainsaw, licked his lips and asked “how you doin’?” in a thick Southern drawl. Rather than being frightened, our group erupted in laughter, and my daughter remarked that it seemed we had our answer about how the night would go.
We spent the evening wandering around between scare zones and haunted houses, and even one ridiculously, disrespectfully amusing show where Bill & Ted (of the Excellent Adventure variety) brought us up to date on pop culture events from the past year, from those with major significance such as the Presidential election to those with shorter shelf-lives such as the Chewbacca Mom (I’m with them… I don’t get her appeal and never did).
We did not go into the evening with an attack plan, just a vague idea that the “one thing” everyone wanted to do was the American Horror Story house. We logged a lot of walking miles, and stopped in here and there as things interested us. We screamed a little, we laughed a lot, and late in the outing, as we strode through AHS, which was the spine-chilling pinnacle of the evening, we screamed a lot while there hadn’t been much laughing going on. Totally creepy and unsettling, and (as I’ve never watched the show) still having the desired scare effect, it was actually the best way to have ended the night.
In any case, we all had the distinct impression that A was with us in spirit last night, which really comes as no surprise. As we stood in line for the very first house we would be visiting, I glanced up and noticed that it was being held on Stage 22. This was the first of many occurrences throughout the night that made it seem as though A were pointing the way and guiding our paths. It made sense; the theme parks have always been a big part of our family life, and where we’ve made some of our favorite memories.
On the drive home at the end of the night (which was technically early morning), I looked back at our how enjoyable an evening we’d had, how smoothly our timing had run (arriving “just in time” for a show, or passing a popular ride that had a 5-minute wait time – the elusive unicorn of the theme park circuit) and how many individual signs had pointed to the fact that my husband had joined us for the evening. It seemed as if I hadn’t really been a 5th wheel after all.
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