In our family, we have a story that we tell over and over…
When I was 14 and my sister was 11, my parents planned a trip to Disney and Epcot Center for us over Christmas. We lived in northern Florida and although we were only a couple of hours away, we had read that the weather was mostly warm all year round. In our excitement, we packed lots of clothes but nothing for a record cold snap. On Christmas day we woke up and entered the newly opened Epcot Center to explore the wonders of discovery and to tour around the world. We were excited and ready for our adventure.
It didn’t take us long to realize that we were not prepared for the coldest weather Orlando had seen in a hundred years. The fountains all over the park were frozen, plants were being sprayed with water to prevent further damage, and almost no one was there. Excitement slumped toward complaining. Soon we were whining that we needed coats or at least sweatshirts. My dad set his chin and said, “It will warm up.” We trudged on, trying to stay warm, exploring the park, and looking jealously at all the other tourists with new Mickey Mouse gear.
We toured the world, exploring France, Germany, and China. We ate our Christmas dinner in England that year. There were so few people in the park we didn’t have to wait for anything. We wandered as though it was just us. Every once in a while, we would complain about being cold. Dad would grumble, “Just wait, it will warm up.” By about 4:30p he finally relented and bought us matching Mickey Mouse sweatshirts. We gratefully wrapped our self in their warmth and continued on our way.
That story has taken on a life of its own in our family… to be honest, we have teased him mercilessly about it for 35 years.
Last February, we met my parents and sister and brother-in-law in New Orleans for a long weekend to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. One of the first activities we planned was a dinner cruise on the Mississippi River. It was spectacular, live Jazz music, a buffet with a mouth-watering array of choices, and the history and beauty of the paddle boat and the river.
As the sun set, we realized the river was cooler than we expected. We sat at the railing and began to shiver in the cold. Within minutes, my dad appeared with three brand new sweatshirts for us. He handed them out and grinned as we gratefully accepted.
That night, I saw his hesitation to buy us warmer clothes in Disney in a different light. It wasn’t that Dad was cheap or mean, or just uncaring. Somehow, he was able to afford the trip, the stay at the brand new Hilton Hotel, the cost for four of us to visit both parks, as well as eating out the whole time. Those sweatshirts probably weren’t in the budget.
My sister and I have often marveled at how they were able to do all the things they did when we were growing up. We lived in lots of different places as a Navy family, and we explored those places completely. We visited castles, museums, and far-flung islands. We spent time in theme parks, zoos, beaches, and all kinds of cultural attractions.
After raising a family of my own, I can’t imagine how they pulled it off. Dad has always been the one who handled the finances and he made these things happen. He still makes things happen for our family. As kids, I think we just saw this as what we did. I didn’t realize that sacrifices had to be made to make a Disney trip a reality. Now I know, prioritizing exploration and travel were another way he showed his love for us.
We may not have understood then, but we do now. I am so grateful for the ways our dad showed us the world… from Hawaii to Scotland, South Carolina to Bremerton Washington, Florida to Bermuda and back and forth across the country we explored the world. It might have been only money, but the memories and the way those experiences shaped us… were priceless.
Thank you, Dad. We love you!