Sitting here at the desk, giving Bobby a bottle (and hoping for a nap to follow!) I find myself drawn to the photo on the memo board above the desk. It's the obligatory Main Street USA/in-front-of-Cinderella's-castle photo from our day at Disney last summer. In fact, it was almost exactly one year ago.
My, how things have changed. I look at the seven people smiling back at me... in the past year,
One got his driver's license.
One has grown several inches.
One now has a boyfriend. (No, not me.)
Two have much, much longer hair.
One person turned 39. (Not me either -- hello, 40!)
And the last person became a mommy. Again. (Ah, yes. THAT would be me.)
But that day... that single, hell-hot day the Cameron family decided to take on the Magic Kingdom was a happy day. We didn't tell the kids we were going. All Jeff said was that they might want to go to bed early, because we were going to be on the road the next morning by 6. "We're going out on a river to look for alligators!" he blatantly lied. The kids let out a collective groan. We'd had them up equally early that day to go on a deep sea fishing trip. The next morning, the kids woke, piled into the van and promptly fell back asleep. Jeff and I smiled slyly at each other. We wanted this day to be a surprise. Tyler and Kate had been to Disney before, but it was the first time for Jack, Charlie and Sam. By the time we reached Orlando, some were beginning to stir, and I still laugh as I remember Jeff practically climbing out the driver's window at a toll booth to whisper, "What's the quickest way to the Magic Kingdom?"
As we neared the park, the kids began waking up. One of the younger boys asked about a sign that said something about Disney. Tyler told him the place we were going was nearby. (Still not sure if he really knew where we were headed or not. But a million thanks to him for not blowing the surprise!) Finally, we arrived and parked. A tram pulled up immediately, its loudspeaker blaring, "REMEMBER YOUR PARKING LOT. YOU ARE IN GOOFY 22." I looked expectantly at Jack, Charlie and Sam.
"Do you know where we are, guys?" I asked.
Sam looked up at me and wrinkeled his freckled nose. "Florida?" he guessed. Adorable!
"Yes," I said, "but do you know where in Florida?"
I couldn't stand it anymore. "DISNEY WORLD, BOYS! WE'RE AT DISNEY WORLD!"
Needless to say, there was much excitement and merriment as we entered the park. Rides were a top priority -- for everyone but newly-pregnant me, that is. Jeff and I hadn't told the kids yet, as it was still quite early. However, Tyler had some fairly high expectations about me and my willingness to ride roller coasters. Especially since I'd admitted a few months earlier I love, love, LOVE rollercoasters. As we approached Big Thunder Mountain, I lagged behind, telling the six others I'd sit this one out and take a picture of everyone. I tried that excuse again on Splash Mountain, too. When Tyler began growing irritated with the excuses, I wondered how long we could keep our little secret. Later, he all but demanded I ride with them on Space Mountain. As luck and height requirements would have it, Sam was too short to ride, so my excuse was to stay with him. I managed to join everyone for other rides, though: The Haunted Mansion, Mickey's 3-D show, Buzz Lightyear and the most agonizing of all... It's a Small World. Actually, it wasn't so bad -- the boys even enjoyed it. Mostly because it was a slow boat ride in an air conditioned building.
The day went quickly, and before we knew it, Jeff, Tyler, Jack and Charlie were in line for the final ride on Space Mountain. Kate, Sam and I headed to do our souvenir shopping on Main Street. We all met up again to watch the fireworks show, narrated through loudspeakers by Jiminy Cricket. Let me tell you -- if you have never seen or waited around for Disney's end-of-the-day fireworks show, do yourself a favor and go. Yes, you are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder and there will probably be a little kid standing next to you having the mother of all meltdowns. But I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't worth it. We stayed. We watched. A few of us even teared up. It was quite honestly one of the best days of my adult life. The last time I was there was 1976, and I was Sam's age. Watching the excitement through the kids' eyes was a priceless gift. And despite the fatigue, despite quite a few waves of morning/all-day sickness, despite the oppressive heat we had spent a wonderful day together at the happiest place on earth.
A week later, back at home, we took the kids our for ice cream one night. Jeff came back to the patio table with cones, and everyone quickly noticed there was one extra... an itty-bitty baby cone.
Suddenly, Tyler's face lit up and he laughed, "So THAT'S why you wouldn't ride any rollercoasters!"