The older I get, the more I realize how old I am. The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be.
At one time, the old gray mare could plow them fields in record time, then kick up her heels and bring down the barn.
These days, she stumbles through the fields, then collapses on the hay and sleeps for a week.
We spent last week at the Happiest and Most Magical Place on Earth, and truly, it was. We had a blast. But, for reasons to follow, we ran and ran and ran and ran for five days without a drop of down time. We rose early, got to the parks soon after they opened, did everything we could possibly do, ate everything we could possibly eat, and staggered into our hotel room about midnight.
Then we’d get up the next morning and do it all again.
For five days.
My feet hurt just thinking about it.
But I’d do it again in a second.
(Or at least after I’ve had a good nap.)
The American Academy of Ophthalmology posts their meeting schedule several years in advance, so we’ve known for a while that Orlando would host their national meeting in 2011. Gretchen and I started scheming immediately, but we never said anything to the kids about it – we’ve both learned how quickly life turns unexpectedly and most inconveniently. So we kept this trip a secret.
But then Gretchen & BJ bought a house on the lake with lots of potential, which required lots of remodeling and lots of cash. We put our dreams of a Disney World reunion on hold. I understood, but I was still pretty disappointed. At least we hadn’t told the kids. They would not have been so understanding.
Michael and I debated the wisdom of the kids’ missing four days of school, especially since Meghan is in 7th grade and all pre-AP classes, plus the added expense only six months after we moved into our new house. But Michael noted we do not have too many years left for family vacations, and in the grand scheme of things, a few days of make-up work and a some thinly stretched dollars do not compare with immense family bonding and eternal magical memories.
Off we went.
Everyone should accompany a six year old on his first visit to Disney World at least once in a lifetime. Put it on your bucket list. I think we had more fun simply watching him than he had himself. “That was AWESOME!” we heard over and over and over again, second only to “Thank you for bringing us here!” Nathan skipped and jumped and ran through every park, practically jumping out of his skin from joy and excitement. He absorbed every possible ounce of Disney, rarely realizing he had wandered twenty paces beyond the rest of the family.
If we had a dime for every time we said/yelled/sighed Nathan’s name, we could have paid for this magical vacation. It took us 4.7 minutes on our first day at the park before we realized the stroller was a most excellent call. Space Mountain was Nathan’s his favorite ride not because of all of the thrilling twists and turns, but because he so badly wanted to return to his home planet. (Ditto for Mission: Space and Spaceship Earth.) The boy resides in his own little universe, and while I’m sure Planet Nathan is a very nice place to live, the rest of us would appreciate his presence on Planet Earth.
Especially during that most unfortunate fifteen minutes one evening at Epcot when we had NO FREAKIN IDEA WHERE HE WAS. He just walked off to explore. By himself. At night. Fortunately, while we were frantically searching for him, he found a Cast Member (the official name for WDW employees) by the exit and was about to call my cell phone when we spotted him. Punk. I hugged him tight. Then I strangled him.
But that incident was only a minor blip in the scheme of Blissfully Exhausting Magic. Truly, this vacation was one we will never forget – mainly because our best best best best best friends decided to join us after all, despite having to pay for the gutting of their basement and the replacement of their sewage line and other crazy remodeling expenses. The temptation for togetherness was too great.
Gretchen & BJ changed their minds only a few weeks before the trip, so we all had to work hard to not leak the secret to the kids. Several times, we almost blew it. In fact, we thought at least one of them had figured it out. Turns out, we’re pretty good liars. They had no idea what was about to hit them.
My writing skills could not do justice to the reveal. It was one of the most priceless, precious parenting moments I’ve ever experienced. So I’ll just show you. Get your Kleenex ready.
I couldn’t help but think of this:
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11
How I love giving good gifts – amazing, unexpected, incomparable gifts – to my kids. How much more God loves surprising me.
And that, my friends, is why recovering from a week of Disney has been so difficult. We spent every waking moment with our dearest friends, not wanting to waste a single second on a silly thing like rest time. We milked it for all it was worth. While we would still have enjoyed Disney World with only our family, the trip was five hundred thousand times more fun with Gretchen, BJ, Alexandra, Christian, and Adrianne. We love them so much.
And as an added bonus, we also got to see Beth, Jason, Cooper, John, Julie, Nick, Kate, and Emily – more precious friends from our Iowa days. I’ve heard medical residency being likened to a war, and the friends you make during that season are the friends with whom you will have a lifelong bond of survivorship. I love these women, their husbands, and their kids in a way I can love no one else. We are family. To have the chance to spend a week with them again in a place of pure happiness instead of a place of four feet of snow, subzero temperatures, pagers, late-night surgeries, and missed dinners and bedtimes? I am beyond thankful. Though my feet ached and my body spent the next ten days trying to recover from all the excitement, I would do it all again.
That kind of magic even Walt can’t create.