Last Chanukah, my husband and I bought four-wheeled rolling suitcases for our then-11-year-old, curly-headed granddaughter and 8-year-old, cherub-faced twin grandsons. Mickey Mouse luggage tags hung from the handles. The kids tore off the wrapping paper as we shouted, “We’re going to Disney World!”
Since becoming Bubbie and Zaydie, Charles and I have developed an addictive avocation: indulging our grandchildren and reveling in their joy. At first, it was uncalculated — a tummy tickle brought a smile and gurgle. Ice cream topped with rainbow sprinkles, M&M’s and whipped cream evoked a “This is the best.” Soon, we learned that Pokémon trading cards, LOL Surprise!, visits to aquariums, zoos and laser tag secured full-faced smiles and a jubilation that spilled into euphoria.
We were hooked.
We upped the ante and plotted to hit the jackpot. Which is why rather than an intimate vacation to an ocean of turquoise water, mountains capped with snow-white peaks or a city oozing with history and culture, we were schlepping three adult kids, spouses and grandchildren to Orlando, Fla.
After researching hotels, flights and restaurants, and holding summit-level discussions with our kids to refine the itinerary and decode the Fast Pass system, we arrived at the gates of the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella’s castle beckoned from afar as throngs of tourists propelled us down Main Street. We wedged our way through a family of four bellowing “M-I-C K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E”; young mothers and fathers, with faces painted in various shades of exhaustion and a middle-aged couple wearing coordinating T-shirts: Hers read, “Best Day Ever.” His, “Most Expensive Day Ever.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to puncture my Disney bubble. We hadn’t even stepped on the first ride when my eldest son eyed the stroller/scooter rental kiosk, where 35 years ago I had rented a stroller for him. He said, “Mom, maybe we should get you a scooter. It’s a lot of walking for your knees.” I gave him a look that Minnie would never give Mickey. “I do not need one,” I said, “thank you very much.” (Later my husband’s foot swelled for a couple of hours, and we succumbed to the scooter.)
During the four days of our trip, we went to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. I had envisioned exhalations from the attractions that I had loved when my kids were young — “It’s a Small World,” “The Hall of Presidents” and “Dumbo.” But the grandchildren preferred the thrills: “Avatar,” “Space Mountain” and “Rock N’ Roller Coaster.” Although they ultimately agreed to some of my rides, I had to withstand eye-rolls and admonitions like, “We’re not wasting a Fast Pass for these.”
As they pursued adventure, I waited on benches.
After each ride, they’d find me and my bench and relay harrowing experiences.
“Bubbie, it felt like I was flying!”
“My stomach left my body — awesome!”
“So cool, I want to go again!”
I wondered, “How long until lunch?”
I had saved the character dinner for our final night, the best for last. I couldn’t wait to see the expressions on my grandchildren’s faces when they met Mickey, Minnie and their cohorts. Now would be the payoff.
They sat us at a long table in a room bursting with color, chaos and chatter. Buffets brimmed with kid-friendly food and lots and lots of desserts. As I dug into a second serving of pasta, Mickey Mouse danced into the room.
A loud squeal erupted from our table.
“Mickey! Mickey! Hi, Mickey!”
It came from me.
“What’s wrong with Bubbie?” asked one of the twins.
“I can’t believe you’re so excited over some guy wearing a mouse costume,” said my granddaughter.
They just didn’t get it. But I didn’t dwell in disappointment, because in walked Pluto.
On that last night, we tucked the kids into their rollaway beds and collapsed into our king. Before we fell into exhausted slumber, I overheard the sweet voice of my grandson: “It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all …”
His innocence filled me up.
While we didn’t pull three 7’s, I did get my fix. On the flight home, I asked the kids, “On a 1-10 scale, how would you rate the trip?”
My granddaughter said, “An 8.”
One of the boys was an “8,” the other “9.”
“What would be a 10?” I asked.
Joy is precious from wherever it springs.
Laura Black (laurablack.net) is an attorney, businesswoman, community leader, freelance writer and author of “Big Butts, Fat Thighs and Other Secrets to Success” (Cazco Press). She is working on her second book, “The Weight of a Woman: A Memoir of Pounds, Power, Pressures and Purpose.”
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