It was hot. No. Seriously. Now, we knew going down to Florida in the dead of August was going to be a bit of a warm affair, but no matter how much we prepared ourselves, nothing quite compared to the real thing.
We touched down in Orlando late on Saturday night. Stepping out of that airport into the night air should have been refreshing, but the air was like a heavy thing, pressing down on us from the start. It was simply a preview of the coming week, though we were too tired at that moment to truly appreciate it.
But none of that really mattered, once we drove past the sign for the Magic Kingdom, and the other Disney theme parks. Maybe Alexa doesn’t believe in magic, but seeing that, just being there, it made all of us take in a breath. I tried not to think about how fast it would all go, because things always seem to move quickly when you’re trying to stop the world and move as slowly as possible, when you’re trying to let it all sink in.
Our resort was amazing, walking distance from Old Town, a fifteen minute drive to the Magic Kingdom. I still can’t believe we were so close to a sort of magic I hadn’t truly experienced since I was a kid and my parents sacrificed for my sister and me to be a part of that magic. Of course, though, as we pulled onto DeLorean Drive, that was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to find the bed and drift away for hours on end. Luckily for us, Heidi had planned out everything, knowing we would be exhausted.
Because we weren’t scheduled to go to Disney until Monday. On Sunday we were able to sleep in, to savor the energy that we gained from the full night’s sleep. By mid-day we were refreshed and ready to shop. Of course we had to shop. That was the whole point of stocking up on those Target gift cards ahead of time. See, we’re a Target family, and we had already figured out where the nearest bullseye store was located.
It was time to stock up.
The kids were looking everywhere as we drove our rental SUV down the highway, back past the Disney signs, listening to Ed Sheeran (who they played an awful lot on the radio station we latched onto early on). The palm trees were everywhere. They had never seen a real palm tree, up close and in person before. All the tchotchke shops with their blazing signs advertising cheap ticket pricing on trips to “Disney, Universal. Lego Land, Gator Land…” This last one became an inside joke for us the rest of the trip.
“What’s a Gator Land anyway?” Alexa asked me.
“I’m guessing it’s a place that has crocodiles,” I replied.
“You’re silly, dad,” she said.
Target was a revelation once we pulled into the expansive lot. Well, really, once we got inside, because the external facade of the building was pretty much the same as the dozens of others we’ve visited. Once inside, however, we knew we were in Orlando. All the Disney merchandise blew us away at the front of the store. For some reason, I guess, I didn’t realize how many variations of Disney shirts, hats, visors, jackets, and various other items there were. Target knew.
We swarmed the racks, oohing and aahing at everything we wanted. Which was funny, since the real reason we had gone to Target was to stock up our refrigerator and pantry at our resort with food and drink for the week. It would take us forty-five minutes to make it over to the food portion of the store. They knew what they were doing, front-loading us with the Disney stuff. It wasn’t their first rodeo. That’s when I knew that anywhere we might have gone would have done exactly the same. It was Orlando logic.
“How come this Ed Sheeran song keeps coming on?” Alexa asked once we had piled back into the car, our gift cards redeemed and the trunk area piled high with food and other items.
“It’s the early-nineties Mariah Carey syndrome,” I said.
I imagined that early-nineties Mariah Carey would have felt right at home in today’s Orlando. It was over the top, unbelievable, and still so perfect because of the promise it offered everywhere. Even at Gator Land, though we would not really find out if that promise was ever realized. I’m okay with that. Because there needs to be a little magic in the world sometime.
We would find out just how much magic we could fit in the next day.