Monday, May 13, 2019

Nostalgic, Creepy, and Wonderful (A Mother's Day Tale)

As always, the last turn on the winding country road as the top of the old, wooden roller coaster peeks out from the trees, gives my stomach a jolt of excitement. I'll never forget when I was a little girl, how the sight of that coaster, the sound of it whooshing and whomping along the track, and the laughter and thrill screams from countless people who rode it, alerted me to the fact that our family had just arrived at Conneaut Lake Park. And just as it had many times before, the coaster didn't fail to disappoint.

 My son and I put our heads together this year for a Mother's Day jaunt. Not the usual type of mother/son duo, we enjoy things of a more eclectic nature. Last year Matt took me to haunted Hillview Manor for a daytime ghost tour. It was a wonderful old building with incredible architecture and the feel of ghostly happenings in many of its crumbling corners. How could we top a trip of that nature?

We arrived at Conneaut Park yesterday as the rain began clearing. Though the park hasn't opened for the season just yet, we were permitted to walk along its paths, reliving the feel of a bygone era and our own youth. We parked at Hotel Conneaut since we had reservations a little later for the Mother's Day brunch.

With both of our camera's in hand, we headed off into the heart of the park. I had been watching several of the Facebook pages that had to do with this incredible place. The Devil's Den, a favorite dark ride of ours, seemed to have a wonderful guy as its operator/caregiver. For you see, if you have a true love of all things historical to do with an amusement park, you become its caregiver of a sort.

"Devil's Den Tom" is appropriately named. A fun, approachable fellow, whose knowledge of his ride and history of many of the others is above what we expected.

Matt and I settled in for many tales that Tom told us of his years of upkeep on the Den. He also is a certified ride inspector, so he is aware of safety issues and history of many of the rides throughout the park. We received one of the most awesome gifts from Tom, as he toured us through the Devil's Den in walk-through fashion. Never before had either Matt or I had the chance to go through a ride with a true first eye view of what goes on behind the scenes. It was a dream come true for both of us--and a way to feel more connected to a beloved place that has been a part of our family for many years.

Just standing outside the old dark ride, the scent of motor grease and old wood rises on the slight breeze. If you close your eyes, it takes you back to childhood, to school picnics, to simpler times. You remember your parents and their love; you remember the sense of belonging. You remember small vacation trips that were some of the best of your life. You picture the clack, clack, clack of the cars as they begin the journey through the doors of the old spook house, awaiting whatever ghouls and ghosties are ready to dole out at any moment. If you rode with a parent when you were young, chances are that they held onto you tightly showing you that there was nothing to fear. It was all good clean fun.

A little later, after a sumptuous meal, Matt and I strolled through the remainder of the park at our leisure. The silence in Kiddie Land seems alive with what awaits in the new season. Upon searching in nearby woods, I found the beginning and ending of an old jungle cruise ride--one I hadn't seen in years. A rickety bridge stretched over mossy water; the now defunct station where we once stood to board the pontoon boat that would take you around scores of natives and wild animals was abandoned and off-limits.

The carousel stood boarded up nearby. No way to see the lovely stallions, stately lions, tigers and bears! (Oh my!) But when we walked around the back of the building, a small loose board stood slightly ajar. I peered into the darkness and called Matt over. Like something out of "Mr. Dark's carnival," we could see the ghostly outlines of the carousel beasts. No music, not the stir of a breeze or dried leaf. But the feeling of observing this was something magical. For it felt as if we stumbled upon a secret--one only we were privy to at this moment.

Other parts of the park lie in wait for the amazing volunteers that will sweep through as they finish getting it ready for another season. Though I know we will return once it's opened, I found that this day of reliving precious memories and moments with nobody else present, helped me to truly treasure a unique place that my parents loved, my brother loved, I loved, and my son loved.

Here's to you Conneaut Lake Park to many more years for new families and old to walk through your midway, to enjoy the treasure of family time and make memories of their own.

 Park sign near the hotel. All painted and ready for a new season.

 Wonderful old kiddie land auto ride. I'm sure they are the same ones I rode as a child!

 The awesome dark ride! So many other parks have gotten rid of theirs.

 Matt might be standing around a little longer waiting for the ride to open.

 The exit platform to the Jungle Cruise ride from many, many years ago. So cool.

 I've never seen this little treasure. The original bridge to the Jungle Cruise ride. Oh how our family loved this one back in the day!

 How cool is this? Though I'd never walk across, it just screams of another era. Oh the stories a bridge could tell.

Part of the park near miniature golf.

Hotel Conneaut in its grand splendor! Hoping for many more years at this glorious historical place.

Thank you, son, for one of the most memorable Mother's Days ever!

Devil's Den Facebook page: /

The park's Facebook page:


Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Visit From Heaven

I riffled through old drawers in my parent's bedroom. With every little knick knack or memento, I began crying harder. How would I get through this? I had begun the process of clearing out their house after their passing to help get it ready for the "new people." But every item seemed to hold some sort of purpose or special thought, and I cried and cried finding it difficult as I tossed things into a plastic garbage bag.

When I walked from their room into the living area, Mom and Dad sat upon their couch. I could hardly breathe! My parents! Alive again! I ran over to them, observing the way they looked: younger, dark-haired, straight bodied and smiling. I embraced Dad first, kissing him all over his face, not feeling at all uncomfortable that I hadn't done that throughout his life. It felt perfectly natural and my happiness soared. I then reached over to Mom and embraced her, doing the same thing--loving up her dear face.

I realized they had been "sent" and knew they should not really be there. But Dad had a reason for the visit. You see, he needed to help me weed through their "stuff." Some of it was very valuable in his eyes, and he needed to show me which items to hold onto. Though he tossed many things away, he found what was most precious and told me not to let go of those special things.

Then he said to Mom, "We have to go."

I didn't feel sad or sorry to see them leave. I was still too elated at spending a little time with them, to feel anything but sheer happiness. I couldn't wait to share with others that I'd seen them and talked with them.

I watched my parents walk out the front door into a dark, rainy night together toward some beautiful woods on the other side of the road. I knew where they were headed.

Back inside the house I told anyone that would listen: "I just saw my parents! They came from Heaven! They looked wonderful!

When I awoke from the dream this morning, I felt surrounded by peace, joy, and brightness so strong that nothing could interfere with it! I knew that God had given me a glimpse of my mother and father, and let me show affection that had been bursting inside of me! He shared with me also, that though there are some things I do need to "get rid of" from the past, and not hold so tightly to any longer, that there still are things of value that each of my parents gave to me and my brother. Those things are what we need to hold fast to. Those things are the lessons and the love.