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The Emotional Connection to an Amusement Park

I debated long and hard about putting out this post – I tend to be an intensely private person at times, but I feel that if I can share, maybe you’ll make the same emotional connection to a park on your next trip to your local amusement or theme park.

Ten years seems like forever when you say it. Broken down, it’s 3,652 days…520 weeks.

And yet, the biggest, sentinel moment in my life still feels like it was yesterday.

On August 1st, 2004, around 8:00am – I lost my mother to an aggressive, rare form of cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia (Learn more about it, here:

I would be lying if I told you it didn’t mess me up for the rest of my life. Under the stoic, proud face I put on was a terrified young adult – lost in the world without the woman who had given birth to me and frightened. To this day, I am still scarred and probably always will be.

So why do I share this story with you on my amusement and theme park blog?

Every summer, my sister and I would look forward to visiting our local parks with our family – when we were younger, we couldn’t afford season passes; we made it out to our local parks at least once a year, so each trip was extra special for us.

The last trip we made together as a family was in March of 2004, two months before her initial diagnosis and four before she passed. I was working at the time at (then) Paramount’s Great America, and the park was holding it’s annual “Employee Day”  a week before it opened to the general public. It was basically a dress rehearsal to iron out any issues before the public saw the park for the first time that year.

That’s when we took this photo…(Dad was behind the camera):

No caption could contain the emotion that this photo brings back to me and my family.

No caption could contain the emotion that this photo brings back to my family and I. It still brings me to tears.

For me, this is the moment that I can argue how a park can become much more than just a place to have fun. It’s a repository of our collective memories; they’re time capsules into what makes us human. And despite being 3,652 days removed, the memories for me are still as strong as ever.

And so, ten years after the sentinel moment in my life, I was once again out at California’s Great America – having fun and enjoying myself with friends. Why? Because I know she wouldn’t want me to mope around – so I didn’t.

While this past week was a very difficult one emotionally, as it is every year on or around August 1st – I can take solace in photos and memories like these…remembering the good times, the smiles and most importantly the love. And that’s the true, authentic park experience for me – how about you?

I love you Mom – then, now and forever.


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