Many of you don’t know that Steve is a beautiful writer. When he read the following journal entry to me last night, I asked him if I could post it on my blog.
May 27, 2019
After a long day strolling through Disneyland, we arrived back at Adam’s and Emily’s hotel on the shuttle bus. We walked them to the entrance and stepped just inside the double doors into a narrow foyer. Jan and I would be flying back to Dallas in the morning. It was late. We were all tired, though Allie had slept through most of the fireworks show at Frontierland and seemed to have a second wind.
“Give Grandma and Pops hugs,” Emily suggested. “They’re going home tomorrow so we won’t see them again.”
Tommy and Allie walked to each of us and hugged our legs somewhat dutifully. Tommy whispered “Bye,” and coiled inward sleepily. We’d been out together for over 13 hours and had walked a good twelve miles. Both Jan and I were still suffering from bad chest colds. We were exhausted.
The day was over and the suddenness of the ending felt almost unfair. We had no time to surmise and savor the thousand beautiful things we’d shared, a procession of buoyant activities sprinkled with obstacles and challenges that needed to be solved. There was plenty of magic, but it rarely arose from the obvious planned experiences.
The magic wasn’t in the reservation at the Blue Bayou, but in Allie’s face just before she blew out her one birthday candle. Nor was it the Pirates of the Caribbean ride but in Tommy’s tumbling physicality, let loose as we waited in line for our turn to strap into the boat.
There was Tommy’s joy in the anticipation of a new toy which lingered and bubbled up throughout the day until he finally, proudly, clasped a bubble wand. (In that moment, it was the greatest toy ever)
Allie discovered Minnie Mouse on a dance floor near the plaza where we ate dinner. She ran past a human barrier and tugged at Minnie’s skirt as if to say “I’ve been looking for you.” She danced and danced, her little hands held by Minnie’s huge white-gloved hands.
Dreams do come true.
There were small joys in requests to “Hold me,” in songs sung spontaneously, in hands that were suddenly unheld to scurry ahead, fights that arose and ended quickly, popcorn that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be shared, and moments where the sidewalk became a place to swim, or a shiny metal barrier became a bed for a baby Minnie Mouse.
To suggest the central themes weren’t central would be an error. The context was happiness, always happiness, forced perhaps, but forced in a way that left space for shifts of feeling and mood, for a smile to come round, and come round quickly with a laugh.
Joy was the agenda. It hovered in potential excesses, in a sudden parade, in the plaster-cast purple leaves covered with white spirals, in the rumble of roller coaster rails, in the green fake rounded hills, in the drum corps quick-footed snares, and in Goofy’s sudden appearance. Centralized we’ll say, all pulsing out from the Magic Kingdom castle.
On our way out, as we were leaving, I walked behind Adam and Emily and the kids, Allie had fallen asleep during the fireworks show in Frontierland. She was flopped to a side, her head almost dangling over the edge of the rented stroller. Tommy bounced along, switching modes on his bubble wand.
Watching them, I had the rare sense I’ve had a few times in my life, when everything and everyone feels connected, that our distinctions exist within a greater whole, that there is so much more beyond what I can describe, or see or conceive.
Later, recalling that moment, I remembered something my cousin Frank said to me at my father’s funeral. He recalled how once, when he’d been struggling with all the responsibilities and demands of his children and family, he called his father, who was sick and nearing the end of this life. He asked for advice.
His father said, “I don’t have any advice, but I want you to know something. I’d do anything to go back to those days. They were a struggle, but they were the best days of my life.”
Jan and I stepped toward the door after we’d said our goodbyes. We watched Emily, Adam and Tommy walk toward the elevator, but Allie stopped and swung herself around to look at us after she’d taken a few steps. She stood still, bent toward us in a slight bow and smiled, as if to pose for a moment in the rapturous, uncluttered joy of her three-year old self.
We both stood there, staring at her for a few seconds before she turned and hurried off to join her mom, her dad and her brother.
Though Jan and I are both writers, neither of us seem to be able to find the words to describe the feelings we had in the closing moments of the day. Ineffable comes to mind.
Maybe it’s okay that not everything can be described in words.