Natalie trawled through her old boxes in search of something she recalled putting away there. She was in the attic of her house, and the one tiny lamp on the ceiling let in plenty of light.
Dust was swirling around the room, tickling her nose and occasionally making her sneeze. She was, nonetheless, resolute in her pursuit.
She emptied those boxes of papers, old devices, old books, among other items. With age, several of these artifacts had turned beige, and the space had a musty odor.
Natalie wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but she couldn’t until she discovered what she needed.
Finally, she discovered it near the bottom of one of the attic’s last crates. It was an oldest Polaroid, which she believed was still in good shape.
Fortunately, despite its incomplete storage, the image was still intact. As she stared at it, Natalie smiled. ‘Cedar Point, Summer 2006,’ it said on the back.
‘Why would you do such a thing? It’s a waste of money, ‘the older woman inquired, her fingers pressed to her chin in worry.
Memories began to rush her head like a beautiful movie she would never forget, despite the fact that she had not given it any thought in a long time.
She used to go to Cedar Point, an amusement park in Ohio, when she was a kid. She remembered the rides’ metallic sounds, the wonderful aroma of cotton candy in the air, and the yells of the joyful kids rushing around as a ten-year-old.
Everything about that moment was ideal, and she was largely glad for it. Her grandmother put aside a little money here and there during the summer to take her there every day.
But her narrative was uncovered by someone else, and it changed everything. The was why she was looking in the attic for that polaroid. She wished to remember that man and the kindness he had shown her.
It was sixteen years ago…
‘Grandma! Take a look! ‘When Natalie, 10, and her grandmother came at the park for the first time, she screamed at her grandmother.
The small girl’s eyes expanded with delight as she saw children soaring around, munching caramel popcorn and blowing bubbles.
She wanted to accomplish everything, but she realized they couldn’t since they didn’t have enough money.
She was pulling on her grandmother’s hand, urging her to the carousel, which was their actual destination. Natalie was obsessed for some reason.
She adored horses, and taking that ride had been a long-held ambition of hers. Gina, Natalie’s grandma, had promised they’d go that summer, and Natalie couldn’t believe they’d arrived.
They always resided near the park, so Natalie could hear the roller coaster riders’ shouts, see the tired children with their parents as they left, and gaze longingly at the lights through her window at night.
She yearned for all those rides, but she was enthralled by a photograph of the park’s classic carousel, which featured gorgeous, white horses adorned with plastic flowers.
Finally, they arrived to the ride, and Natalie felt like crying from the emotion that had built up in her chest.
It was precisely how she had imagined it to be, like something out of a movie. ‘Can you believe that, Grandma?’ she said as she tightened her grip on the older lady.
Her grandmother leaned down and smiled affectionately. ‘Yes, I am capable. Then go ahead; I’ll hand the ticket on to the ride operator.’
Natalie released go and dashed to the ride, pausing to choose which horse she wanted to ride.
They were all stunning, but they came in a variety of hues and expressions on their plastic faces, and it felt like a life-changing decision to the ten-year-old.
‘Naty, please! The trip is about to begin!’ Her grandmother exclaimed, amused by her granddaughter’s impulsiveness.
Finally, Natalie chose the pink-haired horse with the blue horse-riding chair. That moment, and the smile on her grandmother’s face as she waved as the ride passed her by, would stay with her forever.
It was the happiest time of her life thus far. It’s the kind of moment where time stands still and you remember it for the rest of your life.
Natalie forgot about her family’s problems for a few moments. She was merely one of the lucky youngsters who could freely roam about this luxurious area.
Sadly, the carrousel ride came to an end far too soon, and she disembarked, melancholy about the entire experience. Her grandmother was waiting for her and took her hand .
‘How was it, Naty?’ said the older woman.
‘It was wonderful, but I wish I could go again,’ the girl replied, her eyes brightening as she looked up at her grandmother, who sighed softly.
‘Please accept my apologies, sweetheart. Right now, that’s all we can afford. But I promise that from now until the end of the summer, we may come here every day and get you one ride.
That way, you’ll be able to remember the experience for a longer time. What do you think of that?” Natalie beamed happily as her grandmother offered.
‘Really? That’s fantastic! ‘She jumped around and cheered, still holding her grandmother’s hand. Gina kept her word completely. They came every day, and it never seemed to get old.
Natalie only rode the carousel, finally learning the name of the ride operator, Jacob Salas, who wore a red hat with his park uniform at all times.
He had to be in his twenties, but he was dressed as though he belonged to a previous generation. Mr. Salas approached her grandmother while she was using the restroom one day.
‘While you’re waiting for your grandmother, why don’t you take another ride?’ ‘Sir, please accept my apologies. We can only buy one ticket every day because we only have enough money.
My father died many years ago, and my grandmother no longer works, so my mother is the only one who can support us financially.
Spending money on rides isn’t enough ‘Natalie informed the operator, who nodded in agreement. As he leaned in to stare into her eyes, she noticed a glitter in his eyes. ‘What’s more, guess what?
I’ll purchase you as many tickets as you want for this ride. What do you think of that?” He grinned at the girl, whose eyes widened in surprise.
‘Really!’ he exclaimed, urging her to board the bus once more.
When Gina returned and asked Mr. Salas about it, Natalie was twirling about in the carrousel. ‘Don’t be concerned, ma’am.
She is free to ride for as long as she likes today and in the future. It’s all on me now.’ ‘Why would you do such a thing? It’s a waste of money, ‘the older woman inquired, her fingers pressed to her chin in worry.
With a shake of his head, Jacob expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation. ‘It’s not the case. I don’t have that many bills to pay, and moreover, no one else in the park is having as much fun as that girl.’
After a few minutes, Jacob exclaimed, ‘No!’ ‘no! This is too much for me, young woman. It’s excessive!’
Natalie was able to ride the carousel as much as she wanted that summer since the ride operator maintained his word.
Gina would occasionally buy them caramel popcorn or beverages with the money she saved from ticket sales.
They constantly gave them to Jacob as a thank you for his kindness. They even shot a polaroid photo together one day, Natalie wearing Jacob’s red hat and smiling brightly at the camera.
It was the sweetest childhood memory Natalie had. She had grown tired of the carrousel and the park by the end of the summer. One day, she said her goodbyes and thanked Jacob, and that was the last time she saw him.
Natalie began to daydream about that summer and began seeking for that polaroid. She remembered taking it with her to college years ago, but it had somehow gotten lost in the flow of life.
And her life had taken such a different path. Natalie had won a scholarship to a university in Philadelphia, where she met her future husband, Anthony, who hailed from a family of incredible riches.
It was difficult not to be concerned about money or anything else. Her husband had even purchased a home for her grandmother and mother in Ohio so that they would no longer have to pay rent.
It was fantastic. Her entire life had been spent working hard, but she had also been surrounded by great, generous individuals who were willing to assist her in a variety of ways.
And Natalie believed she had done her best to repay them with her eternal friendship, love, and dedication. But there was one person for whom she had not made reparation: Mr. Salas.
‘Do you remember Mr. Salas, Grandma?’ she asked Gina after telling her how she discovered the polaroid of the three of them at the park.
‘Oh, you’re referring to the young man who allowed you to ride the carousel? I haven’t given him any thought in a long time ‘The older lady responded. ‘If you wish, I can inquire around.’
‘Please! I’m wondering if there’s any way I can repay him for his kindness to us back then ‘Natalie went on.
‘Oh, sweetheart. I’m incredibly proud of the woman you’ve grown into. It’s incredible!’ Gina gushed, her voice husky with emotion.
‘It’s all thanks to you and your mother. Grandma, I hope you are aware of this ‘With a smile on her face, the younger woman responded.
‘I’ll be on the lookout for Mr. Salas. But, hey, could you just send me a photocopy of that polaroid? I’ll be able to utilize it in my search ‘said the older lady.
‘Wow, that’s a fantastic concept!’ Natalie remarked this while snapping a photo of the polaroid with her phone.
Gina called her a few days later and informed her that Jacob was still in Ohio. Furthermore, she had been provided his address and phone number by someone.
Natalie called him as soon as she could and spoke with him for about an hour, asking about his life and present activities.
‘Since my days at that park, a lot has changed. I almost wish I could go back there on occasion ‘Jacob told her longingly before going into detail about what had happened since they last saw one other.
Jacob said that he married later that year and that he and his wife had four children before she abandoned them.
To keep them afloat, he worked two jobs. Two of his children were teenagers who worked after school jobs to allow them to visit Cedar Point on occasion.
‘When I was a little girl, Mr. Salas, you gave me the one thing I wanted most: to ride that carousel to my heart’s content.
And I can’t begin to tell you how much I still appreciate what you did,’ Natalie began, tears welling up in her eyes. ‘What would you have right now if you could have anything?’
‘Oh my goodness. To be honest, I have a lot of wishes for my children. But, as a fan of theme parks, I’d take them to Magic Kingdom. However, the trip itself is prohibitively expensive, and the park tickets are much more so.
But I’m saving for it, so it’ll happen eventually, even if my children are grownups by then ‘Mr. Salas was honest in his admission.
Despite his financial difficulties, he had a positive attitude on life. He reminds me of Grandma.
Natalie saw that she was constantly cheery and attempted to downplay how hard we were struggling.
They talked for a few minutes more before saying their goodbyes. Natalie knew exactly what she needed to do and was looking forward to it.
She requested her grandmother’s assistance in coordinating with Mr. Salas’s eldest son to obtain all of the personal information required to purchase aircraft tickets. Natalie called Mr. Salas again a week later.
‘Sir, check your email,’ she said, her palms sweating with anticipation. ‘No!’ After a few moments, Jacob exclaimed. ‘No! This is too much for me, young woman. It’s excessive!’
‘In comparison to what that summer meant to me, it’s insufficient. You once purchased tickets for me, and this is my way of repaying you.
Take pleasure in it. Do it for your children because the memories of those carefree rides will last a lifetime, and believe me, nothing compares ‘Mr. Salas was crying in the background as Natalie insisted.
Then she heard cheers, and she knew he’d told his kids, who had all gathered around the phone at one point or another. ‘Thank you very much! Thank you very much! ‘They screamed.
Natalie had purchased plane tickets for them all to Orlando, Florida, with reservations at a Disney Resort and admission to Magic Kingdom.
Epcot Center, and Animal Kingdom. She felt enormous pleasure in herself when she heard everyone cheering on the phone.
‘You are, young lady… I’m at a loss for words. I’ll send a lot of images. Thank you very much!’ They hung up after Mr. Salas expressed his gratitude.
Natalie sat her phone on her coffee table and stared in her living room at nothing in particular, yet she was thinking profoundly. Years ago, she was wrong. Riding the carousel was not her favorite pastime. This was the case.