When You Wish Upon A Star

Posted by mwallach on April 23, 2012 in My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,
It had been too long since something crazy happened that I thought I was losing my touch. I worried crazy was no longer followed me everywhere and this column was going to fall apart. Two weeks had elapsed since I wrote and nary a nutty thing had happened, which to some was insane in and of itself. My karma kicked in, however, and with only one day left to go before returning from vacation, the following occurred.

We took the break in the school calendar to get away for a couple of days. Some days it seemed as if the entire eastern seaboard had converged upon the same small area of the United States as we had, known informally as Disney World. The 47 square miles which make up the sum total of Disney’s property in Orlando shrinks when packed to the gills with exhausted parents, kids wearing Mickey ears and families wearing identical gitchy shirts. (Yes: that was us and we looked great.) Despite Disney’s enormity, it’s uber-utopian philosophy requires a contrived perfection from every inch of the area. Nothing less is acceptable. If a leaf falls, I am convinced it only fell because it was designed and instructed to fall just so.

As such, the annual HGTV Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot turns the already impressive park into a lush and intricately manicured garden, complete with topiaries, rare varieties of flowers and hedges shaped like Mickey. The park is infused with the sweet smell of flowers in bloom, as smiling faces pose for pictures in front of the masterfully detailed flora. Absolutely perfect, each detail is carefully laid out. Every flower appears to bloom in unison with the next and it is beautiful. With not a single cloud in the sky, it seemed like nothing could go wrong – and then we arrived.

The reality of any family activity is that everyone may not be able to do participate in every part. Especially in a theme park, where height is major factor in determining one’s eligibility, someone is bound to be left out of the equation at some point – especially when a toddler is involved. My husband and I, therefore, took shifts as one went ahead and the other stayed behind with our daughter. Lucky for him: even merry-go-rounds are too much for me. So when our kids wanted to go on yet another ride that defied gravity and cause me to be tossed around like trash, I was just as happy to sit it out.

Pushing our stroller to a nearby bench, I unbuckled my toddler and let her stretch her legs as I checked my email. Engrossed in something I was reading, she was happy looking at the nearby bed of golden marigolds located right next to us that, like their flower cousins throughout the park, were perfectly planted and in bloom. Appreciating the quiet moment and still focused on my email, I thoughtlessly thanked my toddler when she brought me one of the marigolds. “Thank you,” I said to her, not realizing that there was something seriously wrong with this picture. A minute later, it happened again. She handed me another flower. This time, barely a second had passed when it occurred to me there was an issue.

“The flowers are not for picking,” I said, breaking away from the email only to see that she was not standing where I had expected. I stood up and turned around. It seemed that she had climbed into the flower bed. I looked at her and she beamed, holding two full marigold plants she had yanked from the earth, one in each hand. I gasped.

Leaping into the bed beside her, I scooped her out of the way and desperately tried to replant the poor flowers. Then, like thieves leaving the scene of a crime, I strapped her back into the stroller and made a run for it. When the Disney flower police would return to the area, bent on determining who disrupted their perfect world, I wanted to be as far away as possible. Of course, that might happen to a normal person. Epcot is certainly large enough to get lost in a crowd, never to be seen again. I, however, do not lead a normal life.

During warmer months, I alternate between wearing sunglasses and regular glasses without bothering to use a case. One pair stays on my eyes while the other rests across my head. It looks ridiculous, I agree, but it usually works fine – until, of course, I need to scoop my daughter out of a flower bed in Epcot, inadvertently and unknowingly dropping a pair from my head behind a row of flowers. At that point the only thing that still worked the way I expected was the overwhelming sense of panic that takes over my body at moments such as these. It kicked in just fine. I wondered why I did not use a glasses case as I quickly become a complete mess.

About twenty minutes after the flower vandalism is when I realized my glasses were gone. Retracing my steps, I asked the bathroom attendant, the guy who sold me a bottle of water and people I had passed along the way if they had seen a pair of glasses. Each person had informed me that the visitor’s center collected all lost items in Epcot although it took a couple of hours for things to be retrieved. Not only did I not have that kind of time because the sun was setting and the sunglasses on my face would soon become an actual hindrance to my vision, but there was something more pressing: my husband was coming off the ride. I had to find them before he found me.

After looking high and low, I finally remembered about being in the flower bed. Ever try and find something as small as a pair of glasses in a place as massive as Epcot? Me neither. But much to my surprise, there they were – stuck behind a bunch of marigolds, semi-submerged in dirt. I screamed, breathed a deep sigh of relief and unabashedly broke out into a victory dance for all the world to see.

The family sitting about two feet away from my Elaine Benes imitation (see: Seinfeld) began to smile and laugh. Not caring, I continued. “I found them!” I exclaimed, holding the glasses above my head in victory. Something about the expression on their faces, however, made it seem like they knew exactly how I felt. They were not laughing at me, but with me.

“It’s like leaving your camcorder on the Buzz Lightyear ride,” said the father, “only to return hours later and find it exactly where you left it – under the seat you had been sitting in!” I could not believe it. “That happened to you today?” I said, and he nodded. “Wow!” I exclaimed, adding, “Like a needle in a haystack, what are the chances of THAT happening?” Like a true believer, however, he smiled and said, “It’s Disney – dreams really do come true.”

Here’s hoping you, too, had a magical day.
As Seen in the South Shore Standard Apr’ 2011

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