February 2013 - The Magic Castle and Space Mountain
At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, Disney's Magic Kingdom, with a little help from my friends, actually did provide a few of my most magic moments this year. In February, I flew to Orlando, Florida with three colleagues to attend a reading convention; theme park tickets were offered as a courtesy. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like crowds, and anyone who knows me better knows I that stopped doing amusement park rides when I was twelve years old and stumbled out of an Imax theatre "hot air balloon ride" at Cedar Point with a case of vertigo so bad that even the thought of a bumper car still makes me nauseous. But there is something inherently magic about slogging through a foot of snow in 17 degree weather to board a plane and then stepping out of that same plane into 75 degrees of breezy sunshine. It's like getting to use a time machine without the worry of changing history. . . and it sparks a wonderful sense of adventure. So I was up for the Magic Kingdom with the intention of keeping my feet on the ground. We arrived at the park at dusk, just as the last rays of sunshine gave way to a mystical array of bedazzling lights, and the first enthusiastic order of business, for two of us, at least, was to knock out the Tea Cups. I managed to avoid this with the excuse that I was hungry, which wasn't very plausible since I had just finished a twenty dollar bowl of pasta at the hotel restaurant. Fortunately, I was in the company of non-judgmental people. Even more fortunate was that my third colleague, who also happens to be my boss and my friend, shares my love of food (all one hundred ten pounds of her - some people are just lucky, I guess). We had barely gotten seated at Mickey's BBQ Emporium when the first two caught up with us on their way to the Haunted Mansion. . . definitely more my speed, but still not as pressing as a second rib and a half eaten pulled pork sandwich. . . we would catch up with them. And we did try. We really did. Unfortunately, just about the time I made the decision to throw away the last few bites of the twelve dollar rib to begin our mad rush, the Magic Castle Light Show began. Just to be clear, I had no idea what a Magic Castle Light Show entailed. The last time I had been to Disney World, the Electric Light Parade had been the highlight of the evening. Been there, done that. I think it was the same for my boss. So, by tacit agreement, we decided to forego the light show, ascertained the location of the Haunted Mansion, calculated the quickest route from here to there, and attempted a beeline. But the spectators, hundreds of people, maybe thousands, had converged on the ubitiquous and intertwining winding paths around the castle so thickly that we couldn't get through. Like a frustrated GPS, we were forced to recalculate over and over. We kept bumping into people. And each other. It began to feel familiarly like our frenetically paced work life in which we were always juggling, rescheduling, trying to catch up. . . in a workplace where trying to get from your office at one end of the building to a meeting on the other end might involve a cafeteria food fight, a student mutiny, a teacher meltdown, a lockdown, unexpected vistors from the state, or all five on a really good day. And if nothing else, working in this type of environment day after day, year after year, had taught us to be purposeful, which was obviously a manifestation of our behavior in the happiest place on earth. Now if you are someone reading this who HAS seen the Magic Castle Light Show. . . from the beginning. . . Someone who has the inherent ability to pay the slightest bit of attention when there is a spectacular, GIANT event going on around you. . . you are probably wondering, even in light of my previous explanation, how do you not just STOP? How do you miss the Magic Castle Light Show? Didn't you even look UP? I know. I get it. I've watched the YouTube video from the beginning. Absolutely spectacular and breathtaking, even on a 2" by 3" inch I-Phone screen. And that is exactly what happened, eventually. It was the soul stirring opening lines of The Circle of Life that finally got my attention. I had just stumbled down one curb and tripped up the corresponding curb directly across in an attempt to traverse the sunken paths instead of staying on them, which clearly hadn't been working, (by this point, my friend was laughing hysterically at me and trying to remember just how many glasses of wine I had had with my pasta, and/ or wondering exactly what was in the bbq sauce) when I heard it . . . and looked UP, and STOPPED. I grabbed her arm as she flew past me, and, out of breath said Lets. Just. Stop. Before us was the most enchantingly magnificent display of color and lights imaginable outside the Aurora Borealis, except this was set to music (really. . . watch the YouTube video here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlRJxHwPnEY&noredirect=1 ). We were almost speechless, except that I heard her whisper, "I wish my children were here." And I got it because I was already planning a trip in my head with my granddaughter. . . because when something stops you in your tracks, when you stumble into extraordinary, you want to come back and bring everybody. And sometimes you can.
We never did catch up with our friends that night. We looked for them at the Haunted Mansion, but they were long gone; we found out later, they rode everything in the park. We slowed it down, took our time, and enjoyed a few things. . . including Space Mountain. Which actually turned out to be comfortingly familiar and strangely exhilarating at the same time. No spinning or dizziness. Just full speed ahead. I guess barreling through the darkness at top speed into the unknown is definitely something I've learned to do well with her. But I'm really glad for that moment when we just stopped and looked up.