Last week, my family went to a little theme park here in our region. If you have trouble imagining a theme park in France, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. I live here and I still have trouble imagining it.
However, it should come as some small consolation that the theme of this theme park is none other than The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry. Yes, that’s right, this theme park is called Le Parc du Petit Prince.
My boys and I had gone to this theme park in 2018, with some musician friends and their kids. My indulgent husband stayed home that time because A. he needed to get some work done and B. he hates theme parks (which is funny because we worked together at Walt Disney World in Florida for several years. I guess he got his fill then.) They were both under 1 meter tall at the time, so they could not enjoy many of the attractions; but they could do enough to keep them happy and busy.
Now, they are both tall enough to ride, accompanied (by me, since indulgent husband is happy to hold our bags and wait on the ground), on all of the attractions.
Le Parc du Petit Prince
It’s a small theme park.. For comparison’s sake, it is about the size of Main Street USA, Tomorrowland and Liberty Square combined, with a heck of a lot of that being taken up by sheep pasture (because, you know, “Dessine-moi un mouton…”) That said, there are two smallish roller coasters, one water ride and flying swings. There are shows and there is a hot air balloon ride and one tower ride that takes you pretty darn high in the air. There are shows and a really amazing playground and, my boys’ absolute favorite thing in the world, an enormous indoor bouncy castle called The Volcano.
The theming is pretty good, for a theme park based on a book which is read mainly for its poetic and philosophical value and not for its thrilling plotline. It’s true that there are some deeply heartwarming ideas
The best part about it was that it was relatively empty, so almost all the attractions were (nearly) walk-on. While this was fantastic for us, it broke my heart for the people who make their living off that theme park. There is so much that goes into making a theme park magical: so much creativity, so much energy, so much client service. While I appreciated their efforts, I felt bad that they were rolling out the red carpet just for us.
Too old for a merry-go-round
Believe it or not, this article is not a theme park review. I’m going to leave that to the pros (no, really. My friend fabulous friend Genevieve is married to a man who writes books about theme parks. I am not here to get into his space!!)
When I was young, I loved thrill rides. I maybe didn’t love the queues for thrill rides, but I genuinely loved the speed, the way my stomach fell through the floor. I loved the moment just before a gigantic descent, when I kinda wished I hadn’t started up the hill in the first place…
I haven’t been on a thrill ride in about eighteen years.
About a month ago, my boys and I were at a park that had a little merry-go-round. You know the kind…with a disk that you get to spinning super fast and you have to hold on for your life. When I stepped off I was nauseous. I stayed nauseous, and this is no exaggeration, for about three weeks. When I would take an onramp to the freeway that was a loop? I got nauseous again. As a matter of fact, I would make a right turn in the car and I would get nauseous. I would accelerate and I would get nauseous. I would sit down in the car and I would get nauseous. Yay me.
I am too old for a merry-go-round. This did not bode well for our summer plan to A. go to Le Parc du Petit Prince and B. go to Europa Park, a theme park in Germany for which we had received tickets for Christmas from my BIL and SIL.
I was just barely no longer getting nauseous when my family packed up for the day to go to a theme park.
I’ve mentioned this before, but my youngest scalawag and I both have our primary love language set at a very, very high need for touch. As if this comes as a surprise, considering that he is the whirling dervish I wrote about yesterday.
It’s an incredibly frustrating way to live: needing touch in order to feel loved. There is a sense of being a bottomless pit with this kind of thing. There is nothing intellectual or philosophical about it; it reduces us to being like big dogs nudging around, looking for someone to actually, literally pet us on the head. Since this is not socially acceptable, I, for one, got to the point where I gave up hope of ever actually feeling loved.
I know I am loved. Do not hear what I am not saying. But there is a deep, deep divide between knowing I am loved and feeling loved. I have spent most of my marriage trying to learn how to feel loved in the way my indulgent husband can show me.
There is something very painful that happens when you abandon your own love language: you begin to reject anything that even resembles that love language, out of fear that your deep, deep need will come back and make you unsatisfied speaking in a language that is not yours.
There is a little roller coaster at Le Parc du Petit Prince called Le Serpent. Yes, based on the snake that swallowed an elephant from the book. I say it’s “just a little coaster,” but it is the most thrilling ride in the park. My eldest was totally motivated to ride it, and the wait was next to nothing, so we did it.
As we rode up that first hill, I was terrified that my nausea was going to come back. That was really my only thought as we inched our way up. My seat partner, for whom this was the very first coaster ever, kept asking questions and I was trying to just let him experience this for what it was going to be: a thrill ride.
As we neared the top of the hill, he shouted, “Look, Mama! Les Vosges!” The Vosges are the mountains near where we live. We can’t see them from our own home, but they are there and they are lovely.
And then we plunged. We looped around the track at a relatively modest speed, but it was enough for the sensations to take over our bodies.
And I had the strangest, most incongruous thought: This is what love feels like.
What love feels like
“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them.”Antoine de St. Exupéry
I have had that very thought before, the one that said, “This is what love feels like,” at equally incongruous moments. One time, I was offered a chair massage at a spa while I waited to get my hair done. The thought scared me so much that, while I would give anything for a massage, I crisped up and couldn’t enjoy it.
One time, a very nice friend gave me a great hug and I had that thought and was afraid that I was having feelings for him that I shouldn’t have. I wasn’t. It was just that someone had spoken my love language and it resonated in my soul.
It’s really, really, scary to realize how deep this experience of love cuts to the bone when I finally experience it.
Can I provide this for myself?
I know my husband loves me, but I also know that touch is not his love language. If I wait for it to become his love language, I will be waiting until I die.
What surprised me was to discover that my body can experience sensation and not just touch as love, and find it incredibly satisfying.
I have learned how to affirm myself with words (this is a love language.) I have learned how to do self-care (acts of service is a love language.) Doing these for myself means that I am no longer a bottomless pit in my marriage: my tank is already a little bit full so I am not completely depending on my husband to give me what I need.
Was there a way to harness this realization that sensation can fill the void, so that I can show myself love in this most peculiar way?
YES. Is the answer. The answer lies in the circus. No, wait. Let me rephrase that: The answer flies in the circus.
Can you leave this circus thing alone?
Actually, no, I can’t. Because as I went throughout the day, riding Le Serpent with my boys as many times as we could, returning to it time and time again, I started really thinking about the sensations that I was enjoying.
One of them was the feeling of flying. There was a bit of danger, too. For some reason, my body experiences danger as love. I can’t explain it, but it is just a strange little truth.
Getting philosophical about this caused me to understand my littlest scalawag, who simply must do dangerous things all the time: he is, as paradoxical as it sounds, showing himself love when he does dangerous things. He experiences love, he shows himself love when he is doing something a little bit dangerous.
This touch/sensation thing has been the bane of my existence for most of my life. It might just be that at forty-three years old, I have finally found a solution for it.
What is it that has always attracted me to the idea of the circus? It’s not the clowns. It’s not the animals. It’s the flying. As a synesthete, I am able to, in a small way, experience the sensations that the acrobats are feeling. The danger of flying the trapeze, the anticipation of the tightrope walker. The trust the aerialist has in her silks.
This is why I must learn to fly. As the Little Prince says,
Straight ahead you can’t go very far.
But flying can take me to the stars.