Recently, I shared the day with two of my three sisters, my 5 year-old nephew, and my two nieces, ages 8 and 9. It seems like we had been trying to set this date for most of the previous year, dodging date conflicts with children, school, church, vacations, work, birthday parties, sniffles, and, the weather.
In the end, we chose a day when schedules and forecasts aligned, only to wake up to the disappointing realization that technology’s promise of a perfect, Chamber of Commerce winter day was replaced by a completely unexpected, unseasonably grey, thick, drippy, blanketed sky dispensing an annoying misty dose of Florida’s “liquid sunshine.”
The “should we or shouldn’t we” texts started around 6 AM with pessimism and positivism posing polar opposite answers. One of the perks of my husband’s 25-plus year tenure as a firefighter-paramedic to the happiest place on earth, were the free, soon-to-expire tickets that reduced our risks for the day to the possibility of a good drenching and a swift, let’s-call-it-a-day departure from theme park magic.
The kids really didn’t remember their one adventure as wee ones, so they wouldn’t know what they were missing if we bailed and threw in the day with nothing more than soggy clothes and a handful of rides. So…so what if we went and had to leave? Finally, the question of the day was answered with a question, “Really, how often does rain last all day?” and a defiant “F+#* the rain, let’s just go!”
We scrambled to find rain gear and a patchwork of pitiful, plastic ponchos, announced the sanctioned, play-hooky surprise to waking children, and subsequently packed up the hard-to-contain bundles of excitement and energy, who, by the way, were completely unaffected by the potential for bone-chilling misery when subtropical precipitation mixes with 50 degree air and infrequently experienced north winds. Synchronous departures and a not-a-minute-wasted rendezvous delivered a minivan full of delirious children with doubting or defiant adults to our long awaited destination.
By 9 AM, bundled and semi-waterproofed, we were witness to the magic that can only be reflected through the innocent, believing wonder in children’s eyes. From that moment on, the weather became insignificant. Sisters cajoled and children delighted as the day unfolded to reveal so much more than the blue skies, sunshine, and crisp, dry air we had hoped would emerge from behind rain-filled clouds ever could have delivered.
From one attraction to the next, through overcoming fears, conquering mountains, snacks and goodies, treats and meals, we were bathed in a constant, dewy mist, the ever-present reminder that nothing in life is predictable or completely managed or orchestrated according to our definition of acceptable. Yet, imperfect conditions delivered perfect experiences, priceless memories.
As the mother of two, now adult, sons, the day was punctuated with deja vu moments, reflecting on wide-eyed wonderful experiences in a magical place that, perhaps, is all too easy to take for granted when it’s right in your own back yard, filled with fruits that are there for the picking whenever you choose. Still, there’s something to be said for moderation; memories like these are meant to be made on days that are set apart from ordinary ones.
Our drizzly day dissolved into droplet dappled darkness, illuminated by misty moonbeams and a twinkling color kaleidoscope of electrical light parade and fireworks fantasies that seemed more spectacular against the velvet backdrop of the cloudy, star-shrouded, slowly retreating stormy night sky.
As the hour and minute hands moved the clock toward official closing time and the start of a brand new day, the storm bands on the radar began to disappear, and we shared one more, somewhat nostalgic, late night meal and a few, unexpected gifts as innocent impressions entertained surrounding tables and weather weary adults with spontaneous, unbridled, chitter-chatter from precious little mouths.
Without warning, I was overcome with a flood of emotion and mind’s-eye memories of so many good times with children, family, and friends in a place born from the imagination and innovation of a fellow American who loved spending time with his children and who had the vision and courage to create a place where, if just for a short time, we can revel in the gifts that make for a rich and beautiful life.
See-you-soon, drive-safely, thank-yous, hugs and kisses, and a few, last laughs exchanged beneath a crisper, clearer night sky, now twinkling with stars upon which to make dreams-really-can-come-true wishes, soaked in all that was past while savoring the sweet taste of the present, dreaming about what the future will be, and blessed with just how perfect an imperfect day can be. The rain that might have, otherwise, prevented this time together from happening at all, was almost gone except for one, last, unexpected, drenching downpour; my own tears of joy.