Orlando, Part I: The Plan

“Do you believe in magic?”

I asked Alexa this about six months ago, while she sat at the dining room table, after ostensibly doing all of her homework. She looked up at me with this inscrutable expression on her face, the one that reminds me so much of her mother. After a few beats, however, a smile danced across her lips, and a laugh came out.

“I believe that we do what makes us happy, and if that’s magic, then that’s magic.”

Out of the mouth of children. Though, if I’m honest, she’s an “old thirteen,” a girl who understands the world even when she doesn’t. She was right, of course, that magic is what we make of it. For many that magic takes the form of the unexplained. For others it means fortuitous circumstances that drop down like rain. For yet others, magic is a living, breathing thing, coiled and ready to spring at any moment.

It’s in the eye of the beholder, like a beautiful puzzle that sometimes shimmers when it’s all put together.

“There’s a kind of magic that lives in all of us, a sense of adventure that doesn’t go away just because life gets harder.”

“Yeah, Dad, that’s too much to think about.”

And that was that, as it usually is. So, why did I bring up magic in the first place? Well, for an eternity Heidi and I decided this would be the year we went to Disney. We wanted to make sure both girls were old enough that they would remember it. We wanted to make sure the magic was as real as it could be for them. Perhaps we waited a fraction too long for Alexa, the girl who tried to trip Santa Claus last year, but perhaps not. And Madeline believes in Frozen. That’s enough for her.

The trip began to come together, for real, just after New Year’s Day. We saved up gift cards from Target for our food. We looked at resorts near the Magic Kingdom that were affordable. We sought out flight plans that would deposit us in Orlando sometime over the vast summer. All while living our lives, doing the mundanities that often abound when you’re busy making plans. The trip lived between the classes, the meetings, the football games, and the various other chaos.

“Are we really going to be able to do this?”

Heidi asked me this several times over that next six months, even as we squirrel away funds for the excursion, even as we looked at everything that had to be accomplished before we could get there. Maybe because we were looking at everything that had be accomplished before we could get there.

“We got this, babe.”

This is my mantra, the words I speak when I’m not sure of how, but I’m sure of the thing happening. Maybe that’s my own type of magic: to speak it into existence. I say “We got this” and somehow we do. Somehow it’s as real as winter in upstate New York. So we toiled through the winter and the spring, with me and my positive spirit, with Heidi and her “We’ll see” realism. We really do work together when it comes to things like these.

Then there was my mother. We invited her to come along, all expenses paid. It was going to be an amazing family vacation of the sort I couldn’t have imagined even a mere 10 years ago. Oh how the times change. Oh how people change. But there it was, and she was ecstatic to be included.

And things came together. I’d like to say “I told you so,” but that’s not how I roll. Instead, I nodded my head when piece by piece it came together. One puzzle piece led to another, which led to another, which led to a finished puzzle by late summer. The tickets were done, the magic bands purchased and delivered, the rental vehicle reserved, and the dates mapped out down to the nth degree.

“Orlando, here we come!” I said. Which of course was funny because we were actually staying in Kissimmee, Florida, off a street called DeLorean Drive, which made me chuckle with its Back to the Future reference. It was going to be nine days and eight nights in the city of light, with my family around me. It was going to be a sort of magic that many can’t say they’ve experienced. Not fully, anyway.

Of course I was still concerned that something would go wrong, in the weeks leading up to our late August departure. But things went smoothly. Before I knew it, we were on our way to Albany International Airport, our car was neatly stowed in valet parking (We were styling all the way), and we were sitting on the plane that would take us to the place we had been dreaming about for at least 8 months. To the place we had really been dreaming about for the past nearly 14 years, since we found out we were having a baby girl.

We were headed to Orlando.

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