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Rochelle Barton Frank, Class of 1960, Jordan High School, Long Beach, California

One of my earliest and happiest memories was when I was almost five years old and my Dad would take me to the Pike to ride the Merry-go-Round on Saturday morning. When he died six years ago, I realized that the happy PIKE memory was a metaphor for our special connection.


DAD, ME, AND THE MERRY-GO-ROUND


It was early Saturday morning and I was a four year old merry-go-round rider astride the horse that moved fastest on the outside row. He had lifted me up and pulled the wide leather belt snug around my waist to make sure I was secure, checking it again before the repetitive equestrian cycle began. I held tightly to the golden pole as the wild-eyed steed rose and dipped in time to the brash mechanical orchestra of snare-drums, bells and calliope. The slightly discordant music was so loud that I could barely hear his familiar voice as he shouted my name and waved. Wooden horses pranced in their precise up and down circuit. I barely dared to take one hand away to wave briefly each time I passed... but I HAD to wave....looking each time to make sure he was still there. He was!..... smiling and raising his hand so that I would see him .
It was a blaring, raucous, colorful ride of discovery on wild bejeweled steeds frozen in their untamed poses --stiff manes blustering in a stop-action match up with the unseen rush of their static prancing legs. And once more I had come around looking expectantly this time, smiling and daring to let go long enough to wave. More confidently I traveled the next circles, knowing he would always be there. Knowing... but still looking...going around and around. Even if I forgot to look, lost in the dizzy confusion, I knew he would be there watching me, and he would be there when the music stopped and I needed help getting down.
How many times did we go? How many times did we walk through the happy, noisy crowd to that special place with me holding his hand and looking ahead expectantly? How many times did he lift me onto a wooden horse, pull the belt tight and make sure I was secure? After a while I didn't hold the pole so tightly. I was ready to reach for the ring.  He encouraged me to lean out...to stretch...and then, in a moment of great surprise, the shining ring fell onto my finger. I had won a prize!


At some point I became too old for the merry-go-round, but there were other round trips of discovery.... other special places, other special times in my life... when I little realized that he was still lifting me effortlessly, making sure I was secure, waiting for me to come around...waving and smiling...and encouraging me to reach out.
He taught me to drive a car, reminded me to use the seat belt to make sure I was secure, and he was always there when I came back. One day I held his arm and walked through a happy crowd to another special place, looking ahead expectantly. Then, at once, there was a shining ring on my finger and I had won a prize! He waved and smiled as I left through a shower of rice to start a new circuit of life.
Years have gone by, around and around as quickly and colorfully as a few spins on the merry-go-round. As I regularly caught glimpses of him...he was always there when I came around. He never seemed to change, but suddenly I knew he must have....for he was the rider this time, as I pushed his wheelchair up the walkway. A neighbor smiled and waved. The morning sunlight made a shining ring of his soft silver hair.... and almost 50 years later I realized that he was the real prize... always there, lifting me up, making sure I was secure.

When I finally finish my series of circles, when all of life's noisy, exciting confusion and loud discordant music stops... I will expect to see him again, smiling and waving to me at the end of the ride. (from Jan.1994) --Rochelle Barton Frank

 

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