The family and I just returned from a week at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., a place that in my experience tends to bring out (and reveal) the best and worst in each of us. In this sense, and in others, it offers an intense microcosm of life itself: ups, downs, frustration, joy, challenges, fears, demands.
Usually the first day or two are the most exciting and fun, as you adjust from your mundane daily life to the sights, sounds, smells, and pace of the artificial theme park milieu: perfectly manicured grounds, smiling people greeting you at every turn, squeals of joy and stimulation echoing throughout. Oh, and did I mention 80 degree weather, sunshine, and the feel of cargo shorts on my legs?
Still, our trip lurched to an inauspicious start, marred by a host of missteps and intrusions of the realities of a fallen world. Shortly before we boarded our flight bound for Florida, for instance, I discovered I’d forgotten my cell phone. Thus, we’d have to rendezvous the old-fashioned way (“OK, meet us by ‘Peter Pan’ at 2:15,” etc.) rather than enjoying the flexibility and security that communicating via cell phones provides. A few hours later, when we arrived at our hotel room and unpacked, Krista realized she’d forgotten to bring Abby’s t-shirts. Oops. But no big deal, we reasoned. Abby can wear one or two of Aunt Lisa’s and we can purchase a couple more while we’re here. Abby seemed unconcerned and Lisa was magnanimous, so it seemed the perfect solution.
The next day we went to the Magic Kingdom where we enjoyed a wonderful morning of rides, shows, and food ostensibly priced on a per calorie basis. True, we were a little frustrated at our mixed success in reconnecting with Aunt Lisa (who had arrived earlier owing to the amigos’ responsibility for completing two hours of homework before leaving for the park), but it was difficult to grouse when we were in short sleeves, inhaling the scent of french fries and strolling past the Cinderella Castle. At one point Krista and Abby zipped into a shop and purchased two desired (and also overpriced—duh!) shirts. Later we ate some lunch and some soft-serve ice cream, took turns going to the bathroom, and fought the now excessive crowds in order to ride the “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction. On our way there Krista moaned that it didn’t used to be this crowded in December and that the construction in Fantasyland was really beginning to irk her. “It looks terrible,” she groaned. “When are they going to finally finish?” We eventually made our way through the streaming mass of humanity and took our place in line.
“Hey,” I said to Krista. “Where’s your bag with Abby’s shirts?”
Her face went white. “I gave it to you when I got in line for the ice cream! Don’t you remember?? Where is it??!”
Now it was time for my face to go white. Truth was, I didn’t remember. But I knew (1) it wouldn’t get us anywhere profitable to argue about who’d had the bag last or whether Krista had ever handed it off to me, and (2) if Krista said she’d handed it to me, she’d handed it to me. While the rest of the family proceeded through the “Pirates” line I sprinted back to the scene of my absent-minded crime. No shirts. I asked a couple of nearby security agents for assistance, but to no avail. I had flushed several dollars down the drain.
To their credit, Abby and Krista didn’t whinge too much about my mistake, though I could see from Krista’s body language she was growing a bit discouraged. The lost shirts, the crowds, and the challenge of trying to satisfy the different interests and “thrill capacity” of each of our children were taking a toll. As we continued to battle against the tsunami of bodies, strollers, and scooters, she observed “I think they ought to pay ME,” and I knew what she meant.
A couple of hours later Daniel and I headed back to our room while the others sought out additional adventures. When they rejoined us later that night I could tell Krista had recovered her Disney World mojo. She was smiling again. A bounce was back in her step. She, her sister, Abby, and Luke had enjoyed their time together and transcended the relatively minor disappointments experienced earlier. As she shared with me the events I’d missed, Krista added that on the shuttle back to our resort they met a fellow from Kentucky. During their conversation he observed—correctly—“you gotta be tough to do Disney”.
True. And you gotta be tough to do life, too.
Timothy Swenson is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.