"Hersheypark Happy" my arse
The story you're about to read is heartbreaking but has great value. It provides insight into the effects of childhood neglect and also explains why I am so expressive. (It also displays my most developed talent: sarcasm)
The following account is BASED on a true story. I have not changed the names of the persons involved because I want them to feel extreme guilt and remorse for the years of deprivation and suffering I’ve had to endure. I MAY have dramatically altered or exaggerated some of the details but I feel justified in doing so because it portrays me as the victim and makes for a good story.
The year was 1978, which would have made me approximately…..very young. I remember this period of my life very vividly because it was before I had a brother, which also translates into “before I was replaced as dad’s sidekick”. Up until his arrival I had been the Costello to dad’s Abbott, the Chong to his Cheech, the BUTCH to his Sundance. That last comparison is ironic because my physical appearance at the time of this particular incident was less than feminine, I was a year or 2 shy of puberty and hadn't yet developed social graces, a fashion sense or any female attributes....actually, I'm STILL waiting to develop those things but I digress…
The year was 1978 and Hersheypark was the destination. My parents packed up their Brady Bunch-style station wagon, their sanity and their 4 daughters:
1. Sue-officially a teenager now and having no time or patience for her younger impressionable sister but an ample supply of Jean Nate perfume and Bonnie Bell lip gloss to attract a swarm of boys.
2. Ann- a tween armed with an unnecessary hand-me-down training bra and a gift for making me her scapegoat when friends found proof that she was still playing with Barbies at such a mature age.
3. Me-in that pitiful awkward stage: still craving mom and dad’s affection but also wanting so desperately to be accepted by my older siblings… all to no avail-dejected as usual.
4. And Marie-the screamy, whiney, demanding,“ain’t no one gonna be happy unless she is happy” baby girl.
After debating whether to purchase a ticket for my admittance to the park or save money by having me wait in the car, my parents offered a "fairytale"deal: If I promised to take on Cinderella duties at home, tending to the wants and needs of my hideous sisters while also maintaining the castle's hygienic appearance, they would consider me worthy of the ticket's purchase price. I accepted their terms, entered the park and never once complained or displayed bitterness during my tenure as the unappreciated princess. I continued to be sweetness and light in a dark and gray existence.
ANYWAY…the Super Dooper Looper was a brand spankin’ new rollercoaster for thrill seekers at Hersheypark. My 2 older sisters and I spent most of the day riding this sought after attraction over and over again. Truly, I never fully enjoyed the repeated times around that track and through that loop. Sure, I put on a good show–squealing with anticipation as the rollercoaster climbed that big hill, bravely raising my arms above my head and screaming as we were upside down in the loop and then exiting the ride quickly so I could sprint back to the beginning of the line and ride again. It was all part of an act, a desperate attempt to gain acceptance from Sue and Ann, none of it genuine pleasure, I assure you.
Besides, how could I possibly enjoy myself when my heart was elsewhere? It was impossible for me to frolic and be merry while my little sister was crippled with fear, sitting on the sidelines with mom and dad, unwilling to give the Looper a try. It greatly saddened me. Her Hersheypark UNHappiness was MY Hersheypark UNhappiness.
After that final ride I exited through the cold metal turnstile and immediately ran to her side, wishing to comfort and console her…and that is when my life changed forever.
I had written off all the other obvious displays of favoritism over the years but this one was so blatant, so brutal, so flagrant, and there was no disguising my pain and disappointment. There, in Marie’s arms, was a stuffed Woodstock (Snoopy’s friend). This wasn’t just ANY Woodstock, it was a jumbo plush token of adoration. It was bigger than she was, in fact it was SO huge she couldn’t carry it, my dad had to transport it for her. Apparently while I was suffering through repeated trips on the Super Dooper Looper, my dad was playing games of chance in an attempt to win some novelty item and appease little Marie. I imagine my little face and attitude resembled the scene from the Lion King where Timon the Meerkat realizes that Simba and Nala are friends. (see attached photographic evidence but imagine it on a cuter and much more traumatized little face).
Oh the injustice!…for being confident enough to brave the Looper, I was punished…and for being scared and uncooperative, she was rewarded. What kind of parenting is that? The years of therapy required to get me back on track were long and torturous...and to make matters worse she didn’t even take good care of Woodstock. I continue to have flashbacks of a big yellow stuffed bird hanging, as if from a noose, off the top bunk in the bedroom that Marie and I shared…his stuffing oozing through the hole left after she ripped out his eye.
The lesson to be learned from all of this is that years of neglect and dismissal of a child will result in her holding a cyber audience hostage by posting her inner monologue on social media.
This entire account, while fairly accurate and only minimally embellished, was not nearly so traumatic to my overall wellbeing. In fact it wasn't traumatic at all, it was actually sweet. I like to recall this story to torment my mom and sisters and it has now become one of many family jokes and fodder for future pranks. After it was initially published my darling "Marie" purchased a smaller replica of Woodstock and hid it in my house. I finally have a Woodstock of my own and will cherish it, and this memory, forever.