The year Six Flags Over Texas opened for its first season I was about 14 years old. That summer my Daddy took my best friend and me to spend the day at the park. Years later, when I grew up, it occurred to me how boring it must have been for a middle-aged widower to spend the day driving his daughter and her friend to an amusement park then hanging around until they were ready to go home. When I asked him about it he told me, “You have no idea how much fun it can be to just watch your child have fun.”
That’s what we enjoyed in our visit to Disney World last week—watching our kids have fun. It was hot and humid and crowded and we walked about six miles each day. But we had a blast watching our grandkids, and sometimes even our kids, have fun. It was a week of just plain old fun. No more and no less.
Well, we did get a lot more out of it than just plain old fun. It was bonding at its best. We experienced the good and the bad equally and, best of all, together. From the first melt-down Essie experienced at being told "no" to the triumph she and Sarah both had when they got all six “Discovery” stamps at the Animal Kingdom, we were all part of the experience. Don’t ask me about the damned stamps. They were more trouble than you can imagine.
Our first bonding challenge was when I realized our entire family was traveling on one plane and all of our wills were made to benefit each other. If that plane went down everything would go to the state. A quick visit with a lawyer, practically on our way to the airport, dealt with that detail and we traveled with peace of mind. This peace of mind was further enhanced by an entire bag of Disney DVDs and a portable player for the flight.
We had been keeping this trip secret ever since we first conceived it over a year ago. So you can imagine how excited we were to wake the girls on Saturday morning. Everyone gathered at Emily and Steve’s house. They woke fairly easily especially since they seldom have five adults standing in their room at 4 am. I asked Sarah if she remembered the night a couple of weeks ago when she and I lay looking up at the sky and watched a plane fly overhead. I had asked her that night if she could go on a plane anywhere she wanted where would she want to go. I reminded her of that wish…..did she remember where she wished to go?
Still a little sleepy and bewildered, she answered, “Ohio?”
A long silence hung over the bedroom. “Wrong answer,” said Steve.
“Guess again, “ her mother suggested. She looked up at us and Beaven asked her if she would like to go to Disney World. She and her sister were out of the bed faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket. And the adventure began. That same evening we watched fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle.
By the time we got to Orlando Essie had read the Children’s Guidebook until it was dog-eared and limp.
We had about 37 Disney guide books but nobody had read them ahead of time so there was a lot of cramming on the plane. Aunt Elizabeth was still reading a guide book when we headed out for our first visit as soon as we got settled into the hotel.
“It says here that the first Saturday in June is traditionally “Gay Day” at the Magic Kingdom,” she read. And all the gay customers that day wear red shirts to announce their orientation or wear their pride or get better seats on the tram or whatever. So we were prepared for the many matching red shirts we saw. But it was still a little shocking. Emily declared it a very educational experience when she saw a lot of male couples who looked more like professional wrestlers than hairdressers. Then as night arrived and we watched the fireworks over the park I spotted a few couples who held hands and generally relaxed at their ability to be who they are in public.
The rest of the trip was simply a blur of lines, heat and tired feet. Yeah, we had a lot of fun on a few rides and watching some shows and certainly eating ourselves into the gutter. But the main experience of the whole week was learning to live together. We were constantly checking around us for the girls to make sure they didn’t get separated from us. With seven people we could span a good fifty feet while we walked. We didn’t put a lot of thought into it; it simply happened. Each one would watch for the person in front and behind them. It made traveling through the crowds a lot easier. Every adult had a cell phone and we kept in constant communication even when we were apart. We used three different hotel rooms and someone came up with the idea of texting the others as we woke up in lieu of a loud telephone ring. We deepened our respect for each other’s comfort. After we realized how much we enjoyed our first “sleep in” morning we decided we didn’t really have to get there when the park opened.
We went to a character lunch where you had to reserve seats months in advance. We were rewarded for this effort when we got to see a full array of Princesses. Every princess Disney ever used in a movie came by our table to meet the girls. They were mesmerized. I never put much thought into how to tell the difference between Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty but an eight year girl can ID them a mile off. Plus Jasmine, Belle and Ariel. I know my princesses now. And I’ll bet if you asked any little girl exactly what a princess is, the answer would have nothing to do with monarchy or systems of government.
We found out that a box of popcorn could feed four people in about five minutes. It was my kind of eating, more like grazing. A little taste here and there. By the fourth day we gave up on “meals” and just snacked constantly. We let our appearance go and found ourselves hanging things around our necks for each other. Somehow Beaven ended up with somebody’s sunglasses to keep track of.
There’s not much more to report. We went. We had every bit as much fun as we expected.
Now Beaven and I are packing for a mission trip to Mexico. We’ll be gone next Wednesday and maybe that trip will provide interesting stories. In the meantime, I’m thinking of changing my name to Trixie again.
And for those of you who weren't reading when I tried to change my name to Trixie the first time, you can read about it in my posting dated March 28, 2006. It should be in the blog archives.