When you are immersed in one season, it's hard to acknowledge -- daresay, even to imagine -- the existence of an opposite season. While dipping my feet in the ocean last week, I couldn't imagine the mounds of snow that had been plowed to the edges of parking lots as mountainous testaments to the bitter northern winter, just like I couldn't accurately reinvent the simple pleasure of watching a swaying palm tree against a crystal clear blue sky as I walked to class this morning with my hands shoved deeply into my jacket pockets.
Oh, Florida in March, I am a fan.
But let me backtrack to the beginning of our trip, when we surprised the kids with news that we'd be taking them to Disney for two days. Now that was a good moment.
The kids rode out this euphoria for several hours into our journey, and the trip, which we divided into two days, was as smooth as possible. (I will not divulge how many videos we let them watch during the ride. Sometimes you parent for survival. A sixteen hour road trip is one of those times.)
I could share a myriad of stories about Disney -- how Reese talked about her ride on Space Mountain for over an hour after it finished, or how Brooke professed her undying devotion to Cinderella as her "very favorite" princess, or how Kerrington was momentarily lost in the shuffle as we made our way into one of the rides. (We found her. My heartbeat has resumed its normal pace.)
I could share how fun it was to watch the girls' wonderment and to witness how their bond of sisterhood is just as strong -- and, apparently, just as irksome -- in Disney as it is everywhere else.
But what I really want to tell you about is an encounter we had with an employee named Maddy, a sweet college intern who happened to be the person that Joel pulled aside to ask where would be a good place to station ourselves for the evening's parade and fireworks. Once she advised us, we thanked her and went on our way.
I thought that was the end of that story.
An hour later as we were standing where Maddy had recommended, however, she approached and motioned toward us. "I'm so glad I found you! Come with me," she smiled. "I've got something special for you."
We then followed her to a secluded roped-off section with benches and a perfect view of all the festivities. "You can sit here tonight. This is our VIP section."
Let me just say, I hugged that girl.
There's no real rhyme or reason for her actions. She had been having an especially rough day, she told us, and we were first people who had been kind to her. This was her "small" token of thanks.
Still happily dazed, I situated the girls, prepared for the parade to begin, and then glanced toward the next bench to see who was sharing our VIP status.
Here would be a good point to interject that I've always dreamed of hosting my own HGTV show about organizing tight spaces. (Organize your space; organize your life! You can envision me delivering this catch phrase, can't you?) Or, to mention that I've dreamed about having HGTV designers stage my living room and kitchen. Or to acknowledge that, apparently, I experience high levels of social awkwardness when I encounter a celebrity.
Because the person sitting directly beside me -- or more aptly, the person sitting directly beside my five-year-old whose Starbucks tea was almost knocked over from its perch on the bench's arm as a result of her five-year-old untethered enthusiasm -- was Vern Yip.
Now, I could have been normal. I could have gathered my thoughts, leaned over ever-so-slightly, and politely said, "I really admire your work, and I loved the spread of photos showcasing how you designed your kids' rooms. Enjoy your stay at Disney."
Instead, I texted my mother-in-law ("I'm sitting next to Vern Yip!") and covertly tried to capture his profile in one of the pictures that I took of the parade.
I'm smooth like that.
Yes, there I sat -- on the night of my 36th birthday, nonetheless -- in VIP seats next to Vern Yip watching Disney's Electric Light Parade and the fireworks as they burst over the castle, in awe of God's favor and goodness to our very ordinary family.
I haven't shared this with my children, but I've decided that I can never return to Disney. You can't top this.
From Orlando, we drove three additional hours south to Naples to visit my parents, where we ate fresh mango from a farmer's market, swam in the Gulf of Mexico, and visited the botanical gardens, where, incidentally, I bumped into a student of mine. (I hugged her, too. You show this kind of open emotion when you're in Florida. People are naturally happy there.) She and I finished our conversation, astounded, with, "Well, see you on Tuesday morning!"
Friends, I wore flip flops and had sand between my toes as I walked along the pier and dolphin-sighted. In March!
I swung in a hammock -- albeit briefly and uncoordinatedly, as any swinging in a hammock is bound to be -- under these palm trees. In March!
I collected shells and lathered on sunscreen and entertained thoughts about tan lines. In March!
It was a trip for the record books, indeed, even the lengthy, tired drive home. We were together, and that was the best part.
And Vern, if you'd ever like to visit my house and work your magic, consider this an open invitation. You'd be more than welcome. I'll even treat you to a Starbucks, unspilled.
Last post I teased you with the announcement that I had pending news -- BIG news! Seriously, I can't wait to tell you, but I've kept you here long enough already today. Next post, I promise. Stay tuned!