After a tough, wild, crazy, incredible, spectacular, history breaking, money taking, Earth shaking 2008 … I’m going to Disney World. Keep the Christmas tree in storage and unpack the shorts and sun visors.
What time does our flight leave? Driving! Seventeen hours on the road with no DVD player in the minivan. Before you get my postcard from the Magic Kingdom, you will receive word from Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta, and the bathroom rest stop on exit 175.
Welcome to Orlando. Breathe and enjoy the sunshine. Green trees and bushes smile at the over-dressed, sweater-clad tourists from Forest Park. Every four miles, the SunPass toll system invites you to donate. We contribute to this state protection fund in fear that the Chicago weather might try to follow us and make a “hit” on the warm weather.
The central Florida news cast plays the pre-recorded message that guarantees 75-degree temperatures during the day and low 60s during the evening. Just for fun, I check WGN for the Chicago forecast. With a fake smile on his face, the Midwest meteorologist blurts out snow followed by black ice, followed by flooding, followed by bitter cold. I’m happy to pay the next toll.
Welcome to Ticket World of Kissimmee, Fla. They have the right package to match your vacation dreams (and budget). Try the one day pass, the two day pass, or the 10 day pass, which includes lunch with Mickey and Cinderella.
“Does this include parking?” The place goes dead silent and the manager comes to the register.
“Parking is NEVER included!” I opt for the four day pass since the sales person offers to throw in six Gatorland T-shirts.
“Honey, if we sit through a 30 minute presentation on time shares Ticket Man will give us two free airline tickets to fly around the world.” My husband growls, “Do you accept credit cards?” A Vincent Price horror laugh reverberates throughout the store.
“We certainly do.”
Welcome to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! That will be $12 for daily parking. First stop is the Star Wars Jedi Academy. Two of my sons are called out of the crowd to battle Darth Vader. A Disney photographer blocks my camera view of this magical moment so that he can later sell me his authorized photos of this once in a lifetime event. A family vote takes place to decide whether the High School Musical 3 live performance or the Muppet Show 3D experience will occupy the next half hour. It’s a tie so we opt to go grab a buffet lunch. The sign reads $13 dollars for kids and $23 for adults. The footnote reads that 10-year-olds qualify as adults on all Disney properties.
Next stop is the Indiana Jones movie set. Fake fighting, real explosions, expensive movie cameras, simulated lighting, and official theme music make for a heart pounding experience. My 8-year-old’s eyes gleam as he now realizes he is destined to be a Hollywood stuntman. What other career would actually pay him to create chaos, destruction and mayhem? I’ll be posting “no jumping on the bunk bed” signs when we return home.
We weren’t able to keep the kids up late enough to enjoy the New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. However, we did manage to squeeze in a few more days of “dreams come true” and “sunny, warm, and clear” before our return. No souvenirs to speak of other than a few photos and my next American Express credit card statement.
Breathe and exhale one more time before we hit the turnpike. Say goodbye to Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Shamu, and Matilda’s Gigantic Miniature Golf Jungle. Say hello to Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis, Gary, Interstate 90 potholes, U.S. Cellular Field, and Forest Park. Say hello to getting the kids ready for school, washing eight days worth of laundry, fixing dinner, fighting deadlines, and overseeing library operations. I wish I were still there!
Andrea Blaylock has lived in Forest Park since 1994. When she isn’t chasing her four kids and husband, she is serving on the library board of trustees, majoring in apparel design at Dominican University and she says, enjoying every day with which God has blessed her.