The top of the Ferris wheel overlooks an inky-black ocean. Glimmering diamonds of starlight and moon reflect off the water blending with yellow-orange lights impersonating from the shoreline.
It was never certain when but on occasion the conductor would stop the ride with our bucket dangling at the pinnacle, our feet swinging like the cradle while someone below gets on or off the ride. And for a brief moment, I am sitting on top of the world next to my father in a cocktail of exhilaration, fear and peace.
My breath is gone but I don't need it.
The world is satisfied.
Everything pauses at the hand of the conductor and we are gazing out at the world from the vantage point of heaven. The people below have become toy figurines and the cars are Matchbox racers in the palm of my hand. The warbly pipes of amusement park melodies can't reach our heights nor the voices of Mother and Sister calling our names and waving from below. For a moment we are free. We are wordless. We are together.
This moment is the height of my childhood overlooking, not only the world, but the landscape of my years.
No warning. The ride jerks. I grip the bar. My father's hand clutches my shoulder and we are moving again. Each revolution turns another candle, another cake, another Christmas, another teacher's name to be learned. Until finally, the ride comes to its final halt and the bearded man opens the gate and we exit, reunited with Mother and Sister through a crowd of nameless ticket holders. The smell of cotton candy returns. The cars and buildings assume their towering shapes.
The ride is over but the moment remains etched in the canon of my memories. It has moved from moment to metaphor outliving the structure that once housed it's meaning.
No doubt the actual wheel has succumbed to rust and decay and the bearded man no longer has the strength to turn the crank, but the spirit, the metaphor hinges still above, suspended between heaven and earth, in that timeless and wordless pinnacle, exuding a speech no language could express.
What device George Ferris engineered to delight young faces, now becomes an icon, a touchstone reminding those of us who will understand - we have been seated together in heavenly places where the world looks much different than in the trenches of our everyday. From here, looming concerns cannot reach us and their power shrinks in the ascension.
Some things move from symbol to reality while others revolve in just the opposite direction. They go from reality to symbol. And while the realities themselves disappear, the symbols aim at immortality, encasing moments to be called from our memories as if time were pliable and death an illusion.
***This is an excerpt from a memoir I'm writing about the passing of my parents.