Musings & Threads. Carousel.
The magic of the carousel, and precious “N-U-N-L-E-Y-'-S” memories.
In my mind’s eye I can see the big white tent-like building that held the carousel and the red lettering across the front of the building “N-U-N-L-E-Y-'-S”. I was too young to read, but I knew this magical place was called Nunley’s. It was where my dad took my older brother and me on the occasional Sunday when we were very young -- when he had some extra money saved up for an outing there. Nunley’s, and in particular, its carousel, holds the honor of being one my fondest places memories. I would have thought there would be some photographs or home movies of us there. Perhaps some of my brother and me riding in the small boats in the shallow water pool, a Polaroid picture of us snapped in the seconds before we boarded the Ferris wheel, or even at least one photograph of my brother driving a car around the small track or one of him on the kiddie roller coaster with its gentle slopes, no larger than my father was tall. Not being a daring child, I was too afraid to ride the roller coaster those first few times we went to Nunley’s, although I would eventually overcome that fear as well as my apprehension of riding the carousel alone. There are no pictures or movies among the boxes I have of those first brave rides, but I am thankful to at least have those snapshots in my mind to remind me of the exhilaration I felt.
We always seemed to save the carousel for the last ride before we headed home. To my child’s mind, the noise inside the carousel house seemed earsplitting and the wind inside like something out of the Wizard of Oz. I can still sense the excitement I felt when it was my turn to enter the carousel platform and choose my ride for the next few moments of fun - children all around me squealing with delight at the prospect of catching the brass ring. The horses that pumped up and down as the carousel went around rightfully seemed to be the most popular among the children boarding the ride. For a sensible child like me, it was always a stationary horse that I chose. I wanted the stationary horse and I wanted my dad to ride with me. I can imagine us as an outsider would see us. Me on the carousel horse, my dad standing beside me – one arm on my back and the other holding onto the pole which held my horse. My dad telling me that if I hold on, I’ll be safe. “Don’t worry about the brass ring,” he would say. “Just enjoy the ride.”
How scared, yet proud I was that first time I was coaxed into riding the carousel by myself. With each full circle I would look for my dad watching me from the edge, making me feel safe each time we locked eyes and I saw his big, beaming-with-pride smile. I eventually graduated to a horse that moved up and down, but still made sure that my father was watching me. He always was there, making a silly face, dancing, or making the “I love you” sign with his hands. I never did try to grab that brass ring, but I always enjoyed the ride, thanks to my wonderful father.
As I look back now, I feel as though Nunley’s carousel is somewhat of a metaphor for my life. I have always been cautious, sometimes unsure and afraid to take chances, but I eventually take a leap of faith after careful consideration and perhaps some encouragement. I have never worried about grabbing any particular brass rings, but I absolutely feel like I’ve spent my life enjoying the ride - just as my dad advised his little girl all those years ago. Dad has been gone for many years, but I somehow still see his smiling face beaming with pride. He always loved me, supported me, encouraged me, and most importantly, accepted me for exactly who I am. The sensible and cautious child who still resides inside me will forever be grateful for that.