Thirteen months ago I was in Baltimore. That was a simpler time, when I could never have imagined what would come so quickly. The hotel was nice. I was on a higher floor than I would normally be comfortable with, but the view was lovely. I didn’t spend too much time in the room, though, … Continue reading that time. in baltimore.
“Dad, how is EPCOT different from the Magic Kingdom?”
“Well, I always think of it as the Magic Kingdom is for rides, and EPCOT is for walking and seeing what there is to see.”
“Uh, and what is there to see?”
“Characters! Characters as far as the eye can see!”
“Good, cuz there were hardly any in the Magic Kingdom”
Which was true, of course, though not too many people like to point that out ahead of time. If the Magic Kingdom is for inhaling the magic, then EPCOT is for bringing that magic to life and interacting with it. There were no fewer than 20 characters brought to life that we wanted to meet on that Wednesday when we rolled out of bed and got ourselves ready for Day 2 of our park journey. I’ll admit it was kind of sad to me that we would not be going back to the Magic Kingdom, but I was looking forward to the more expansive, more wide open EPCOT.
From the start, it was obvious it would be a different kind of trip that day. After parking in a smaller parking lot there was no need to ride the monorail as we were already there! Going through the gates was a much simpler process because there were fewer people and because we had gone through the procedure with the magic bands a couple of days before. We were veterans by that point, grabbing the wheelchair for Madeline and getting moving right away. Straight off I saw Pluto chilling, taking pictures with newly arriving guests.
It was a sign of things to come. After he put his paw over Alexa’s face, and we all laughed, we took a few pictures, he signed the girls’ autograph books (on his nose), and we took off for one of only four rides we would go on that day: Spaceship Earth. Continue reading “Orlando, Part V: City of Tomorrow”
When most people think of Disney, the first thing that comes to mind is the Magic Kingdom, the nighttime parade down Main Street USA, pictures in front of Cinderella’s Castle, and everything that comes along with that. So it was fitting that the next morning we were up early and on our way to the Magic Kingdom first. Swirling through my head were all the memories (both real and embellished in the intervening years) of my own trips there, the most recent being 25 years prior to our adventure.
As we drove through the expansive gates of the Disney complex it was like entering a whole new world (pardon the double entendre). I had Heidi take a few pictures as I drove a little slower to capture it all. The kids in the back with my mother were oohing and aahing over the huge likenesses of Mickey, and Goofy, and Donald painted onto the gates. I knew it was going to be an amazing day, although it had been hot as blazes when we’d left our resort, and I knew it would just get hotter as the day went on.
But we had a plan. If there’s anything you should know about Heidi, it’s that she’s the queen of planning things out. Our honeymoon was coordinated to perfection, and other trips we’ve taken have received the same treatment. Following the signs, we ended up in the parking lot marked for Simba (Alexa was upset we weren’t in the villains parking), but we were early enough that it wasn’t far from where we needed to catch the monorail. Continue reading “Orlando, Part III: Magic Kingdom”
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. Continue reading “Orlando, Part II: Settling In”
“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. Continue reading “Orlando, Part I: The Plan”
The first time I saw Ireland was through the tiny window of a giant airplane as we descended upon Dublin on a May day in 2003. It was our honeymoon, and we were aglow in the newness of the condition, then bombarded with the shock of the culture change that was about to hit us upon landing. I gripped my new bride’s hand in equal parts fear and anticipation, fear of the unknown and anticipation of the journey regardless. After all, it was Ireland.
I’ve always identified with all things Irish, since I was a wee lad. Honestly, my mother got awfully tired of me speaking in a poor excuse for an Irish accent (I’ve since gotten better at it) and wanting everything to be painted green. In fact, I had picked out the brightest green I could find and gotten my dad to paint my room that color. I was that committed to it, and I couldn’t have told you why it was Ireland and not somewhere else.
So, it was no wonder when I heard U2 for the first time on the radio and fell in love. Like with anything else I get interested in, I went overboard from the start. I quickly began doing research on the band, which was harder to do back then because the internet wasn’t as prevalent, so I went to the library. It was complicated work, but I was assured at the end of the inquiry that I knew all there was to know about the band, and by extension, about Ireland itself.
And I knew I had to get there someday. Somehow.
When I met my future wife, it was one of the first things we talked about, my obsession with all things Irish. I even joked about having been Irish in a previous life, and about the significance of my Irish last name. I knew she was humoring me, and I was grateful for it. At least she didn’t tell me to shut up. I also knew she was just as obsessed with all things British, so we would go back and forth on which culture was better. I still say it’s Irish, and perhaps our trip helped her to see things my way.
We touched down on Dublin soil after a seemingly endless plane ride, but I was finally there. In Ireland. I breathed in the air as we stepped off the plane, even though it was just recirculated airport air. It somehow felt different as I inhaled it, as if I were taking in the very essence of the Irish way of life. I would have knelt and kissed the floor had my wife not been with me. I didn’t want to embarrass her. That would come later. Continue reading “Irish Pride”