The Memories That Remain
When I was in second grade, my family went to Disney World. We had an early flight and with four kids under the age of seven, my parents decided to spend the night in a hotel close to the airport to save precious sleeping hours. The day of, we packed up our bags and drove to the airport in the rain. It was so dark outside but for the light from the lampposts reflected in the puddles on the street, refracting the light and casting long shimmers along the road. This image and my excitement to get to Disney World became connected in my mind. Even now when I am driving in the rain at night, I feel a sense of excitement come over me.
Fortunately for my parents, my grandparents were also coming along for this trip, so each kid was paired with a grown-up at all times. There were also enough people to push the two strollers, hold my hand, and pull the suitcases through the airport. The man checking our tickets asked us where we were heading and upon hearing my answer, told us Disney World was closed. But even at seven years old, I knew he was full of it.
We arrived at the gate just in time to see the sunrise through the large windows looking out onto the tarmac. The sun seemed so much larger than it did at home. I, already an aspiring writer, was carrying a spiral notebook through the airport and took note of all these details, which is how I remember them to this day.
My mom, always the planner, had filled each of our backpacks with a surprise. My sister and I got new Barbies and my brothers got new action figures- Superman and Batman, along with coloring books and crayons, and a book to read. These surprises kept us busy at the gate and on the flight down to Orlando.
I wrote in my notebook that our hotel on Disney property was in the middle of a jungle- we were surrounded by lush palm trees. At night, I could hear the katydids chirping, reminding me of camping with my grandparents.
For the next several days, our party of eight traipsed around the parks- even trying hibachi in Epcot. I wonder whose idea it was to bring three four-year-olds to a restaurant where one slip of the hand could lead to a burn.
As the oldest, I tried my hardest to soldier on through the day, even when I became exhausted. But eventually, I would cave and crawl into one of the rental strollers to rest my feet.
On our last day, we stayed in Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks show. While we were waiting, we met several of the Disney Princesses. I have never been a fan of people dressed in costume (Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.) but had mostly gotten over my fear of the costumed characters at this point, but the princesses I didn’t have a problem with.
While my dad and grandparents held my siblings as they began to drift off, my mom took me into one of the gift shops.
“You have been such a good big sister this week, Julie.” my mom said. “So you can pick out any pin you like as a special gift.” I had become very invested in the Pin trading during our trip and picked out one that almost matched that night- a circular pin featuring the castle, set across a starry night.
I added it to my lanyard and we rejoined the rest of the family.
That pin has long since been lost, but the image still lives in my memory.