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Magic: Lost and Found, #FTSF #JusticeForTim

I’ve always said that I think all children should get to see and experience Disney World at least once. There’s a child in all of us. Become a kid again.

Oh, sure. I was the little girl afraid of the characters (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy) who walked the park and posed for photos with families. I was the girl afraid to ride Space Mountain. I still count my family’s 1992 trip to Florida as an important childhood memory.

Our parents announced the trip to us one night at dinner. I still vaguely remember that announcement. We were eating chicken and I looked at the flowers on the old plates my mom had at the time, thrilled for two weeks off school and a giant road trip with my family.

We drove in the blue van. We stopped in Atlanta, Georgia. We went to Disney, Sea World, the ocean. It was my first time at the ocean, in my young memory.

We collected shark teeth that we found buried in the sand. We swam in pools and ate oranges. We did Florida up right.

***

In the last week alone, In Florida, a terrible mass shooting took place at a gay nightclub and a little child was killed by an alligator. I don’t mean to single out Florida, I loved my time there, the next two times as well as the first. It’s just…when was it that I realized no place is Disney perfect?

All this shock and sadness and grief and horror in Orlando.

***

When we were in Florida we visited the Everglades. We took a boat ride through the swamps. How many alligators were there in those waters around us? That is their home. How do animals and people live side-by-side and stay out of each other’s way? These are questions that plague me now. They never even crossed my mind when I was eight.

I held a baby alligator. I felt it squirm. His mouth was held closed. I couldn’t possibly grasp what a full grown version of the animal would be like. I didn’t have any fear of meeting one and not surviving the encounter. My parents would keep me safe. The alligators would know I was not food, right?

You think Florida, you think alligators. You don’t hear about a child dying from such a danger, at a resort. It is rare. It is unimaginable.

When it comes to more youthful days, I will always remember Florida with my family. For one family, a father who couldn’t hold on and a mother and sibling who were helpless on shore, Florida will never be happy.

***

I am grown now. I can’t pretend and believe in Disney magic, when the news stories just keep on coming at me.

A baby’s lifeless body was found in a dumpster in a town not far from mine just yesterday morning.

A father was taken from his wife and little girl.

It was May of 2013, and the news reported a young father was missing, after he put his truck up for sale online, and left to take it for a test drive with a few perspective buyers. Those buyers had selfish and evil intentions.

He never came home. His killers would be charged.

I heard the wife plead for her husband’s safe return, but something in me knew that would never happen.

When I heard that a little girl would never get to visit Disney, wide eyed, with her father, I was horrified. I felt ill.

When I thought how I’d feel if someone dared to take my brother away from his child, I through the big yellow envelope I was holding across the room. I couldn’t pretend that all was well and that bad things didn’t sometimes happen to decent people.

***

Today is exactly twenty-two years since that chase which was broadcast on live television. I did not have a clue who O.J. Simpson was. I hardly ever followed the news. I was only ten and I didn’t think much about the worst news stories of the nineties.

Now I know more. My eyes have been opened. I can’t go back to that ten-year-old girl I once was who was off playing, while the adults were glued to some high speed chase of a famous athlete on TV. I can’t go back to being that eight-year-old girl who was afraid of the live action characters that seemed real in some of those Disney rides. Life would soon get more frightening, the real world as it’s often known.

I do live some of my youth through the children in my life now. It keeps me sane. It keeps me believing in a little bit of magic still.

***

The verdict has come down today. After a week of horror unfolding, within seconds spread across social media, I was relieved to hear about some criminal justice done. That little girl and her mother and their family will never get their loved one back, but the killers have been found guilty of first degree murder. They are going to prison.

The power of justice. The magic of youth.

***

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday hosts:

Finding Ninee, who is exploring reliving childhood through one’s children.

Along with her is

Deborah of Life is Like a Hand Grenade,

stepping in at the last minute.

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Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday: April Fool’s

“I can’t find them,” my father said these four little words, and my stomach dropped out.
We were wide awake in the hotel room that morning, all ready to go to The Magic Kingdom, Disney World. We had been waiting for this day, my brothers and sister and myself, and now he was telling us he lost our park tickets. This was a cruel joke.
Actually , that’s exactly what it was. My father was never one for playing a lot of pranks on his children or anyone else, so this was unexpected in itself, even if it just so happened to be April first and April Fool’s Day.
We were on our family vacation to Florida; two whole weeks touring around the state in our mini van, sleeping on a bed of blankets my mother made on the floor. The middle seat had been removed, a definite no-no in this day and age.
It was the best moment of my eight-year-old life when, at supper one evening, my parents blurted out that they were taking us to Florida. I remember, all these years later, that amazing feeling when they told us the news.
I have been lucky to go to Florida three times in my life: once as a child, again as a teenager, and once more last year. I know a lot of it is the hype of the world of Mickey Mouse, but it is an experience not to be missed out on at least once. As an eight-year-old I was terrified of a lot of the rides and as an adult a lot of The Magic Kingdom and the other parks wouldn’t interest me, but it is a right-of-passage and I really do believe all children should experience Disney at least once. It is a place of magic and thrills. I treasure the memories made there with my siblings and my parents.
I would sit with my mother while my father and older sister and brother would go on certain rides, but they eventually talked me into going on Space Mountain. I vowed never to ride on anything that went up-side-down, but they assured me this one did not.
I sat, tense and biting my fingernails down, so far that the skin around them became red and raw. As we reached the middle of the ride it suddenly broke down and a huge feeling of relief washed over me.
We were informed that the ride had broken down and our only option was to get out and walk back through the mountain and to please enjoy the rest of our day at Magic Kingdom.
As we walked down the rock steps and through the mountain, I wore my Daisy Duck souvenir hat proudly and happily. This couldn’t have gone better. It must have been magic that worked to save me from the terror of that roller coaster.
I tell these stories fondly, the first being fitting for today, it being April Fools and all. I retell it, not wanting to harp too much on the past, but as an adult and even as a child I’ve wondered what possessed my father to play such a horrible prank on his poor little excited children. Was my mother in on it too and had they been planning it since the inception of the trip? They really are amazing parents and I try not to hold such small infractions against them. That really was an epic April Fool’s Day joke and very deserving to be remembered, aptly timed and the worst possible thing that could have befallen my siblings and myself in that moment.
What is the cruellest April Fools joke you ever played on someone or had played on you?

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