One of my most influential memories is equally one of my most painful. However, the lesson I learned is unforgettable. More accurately, the one thing I learned is that we tend to hold onto things.
We carry the imaginary weight of our assumptions that lead us to conclusions. We argue and we fight when meanwhile, there is an entire world out there, just passing us by and then one day, we snap out of it.
We wake up. We turn around and wonder what happened or where the time went.
Unfortunately, regret is only in the aftermath and by the time we wake up, it is too late; we have allowed the trivial moments to take priority of times that really matter.
For example, I was at the tail of end of a bad marriage. Neither she nor I were able to overcome ourselves and neither she nor I were able to come to a compromise.
We were in our final months before the ultimate decision was made, but deep down, we knew this was coming to an end.
As a final effort to repair us, we decided to take a trip to Disney because out of any place in the world, who could be miserable at Disney?
(By the way, shocker alert, you would be right if you guessed us!)
In a strange twist not by me, another couple was invited to come with us. They were invited, along with their daughter who was roughly the same age as my daughter.
The twisted part is I did not like this couple very much. I did not feel comfortable around them. I saw this as sabotage in the making; however, this was already in the works. Therefore, the wheels of our marital demise were already in progress.
Needless to say, a trip with a 2 year-old child is tough enough. Needless to say, the end was near. I recall asking my soon to be ex, “Why did you invite them?”
It was her belief that the other couple would provide a distraction and they could help ease the tension. I disagreed but it was already too late. The trip was booked. The tickets were paid for and the hotel was already chosen.
This trip was doomed from the beginning. We arrived and the hotel was not the right hotel. The room was wrong. Everything was wrong.
I was fine to just have a place to stay. I was fine to be on-site at Disney because after all, Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth.
My ex and I slept in separate beds. She slept with our daughter. I slept on the other side of the room. The husband from the other couple yelled at some of the hotel staff a few times. The tension was incredible and the sadness was painful.
There were some glimpses of beauty. There were a few things, such as the time I saw my daughter meet Goofy for the first time.
I was amazed by the look of wonder in my child’s eyes when we went through some of the rides.
“It’s a Small World after All,” was the most impressive to her and to me as well. In fact, I have never seen anything so beautiful and amazing as this, my child, amazed by simple things that had nothing to do with the usual technology.
Her eyes were bright and huge. She was mesmerized to say the least —yet still; there was the outside tension which drew me away from fully enjoying this moment. I was too involved with my outside and unresolved tensions that I missed out on some of the most beautiful moments.
We went through all the Disney parks but keep in mind; this was back before Disney had ways to beat the lines. And waiting on long lines with a 2 year-old in the heat is not always an easy thing.
Meanwhile, the other couple was with us. They did not provide a distraction whatsoever. Instead, their company added to the discomfort. However, on the last day at Disney, we agreed to do our own thing. The other couple went their way and we went ours.
We decided to go see where Mickey lived. We saw where Donald lived and Daisy too. We saw where Minnie Mouse lives. And Goofy has his own house too, but not Pluto. Pluto is a dog and lives with Mickey. Goofy is a dog too, but somehow, he talks and Pluto, well, he has special needs I suppose.
I never knew Minnie and Mickey Mouse didn’t live together. Neither do Donald and Daisy. Then again, maybe this is how they’ve been able to stay together for so long.
But who knows?
After the tour, we went to have our picture taken with Minnie and Mickey and Goofy too. We waited on line for at least 45 minutes, which was fine because at least we were together and there was no tension for the moment. There was no arguing and better late than never, at least we felt the cheerful amazement that comes with being at Disney.
After the photos, we went on another line. This was a short line. This is where we went to choose the pictures to see which ones we wanted, pay for them, and put them in a Disney frame or do whatever.
The man behind the counter was kind. He was doing different character impressions, which my daughter loved. He was searching through the computer and then showed a facial concern.
His head tilted to the side and his eyebrows folded down as if to express something strange was happening.
“Uh-oh,” he said.
I was immediately drawn back to my previous sentiment. I was already drawn back to my earlier ideas of disappointment and replied, “We don’t need anymore ‘Uh-oh’s’ this trip.”
I then informed the man that our trip at Disney has not been successful. I told him to correct this situation because I’ve had all the letdowns I could handle for one vacation.
The man behind the counter quickly apologized. He then informed me he would put us in front of the “Princess” line.
This line was more than an hour long. This was the line to meet with each Disney princess from Cinderella, to Snow White, Belle, and Mulan.
At the time, my daughter was mainly interested in Minnie, Mickey, and Goofy. She liked Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too, which was another line at the same place.
Since the man behind the counter was eager to accommodate; he informed us that we would be placed in front of all three lines. He told us to take all the pictures we want, buy what we choose and that he would take care of the rest.
His reason was because no one is supposed to come to Disney and have a bad time. And sure enough, the man held to his promise. We were taken around the back way in to a special room which was absolutely beautiful. There were beautiful Disney paintings on the wall in gold frames. We were taken to a place behind red velvet ropes, attached to beautiful golden stanchions. Meanwhile, we could see the line around the corner. We were on the V.I.P side and this was perfect.
Along came a woman with her little boy. He was a cute kid. Big smile. Happy as ever. They approached us and said hello like kind people do.
I asked if someone made a mistake on their pictures as well. The mother looked me with an odd face. She informed me that this was not the case for them.
I explained there was a mess-up on our pictures so they allowed us to go to the front of the line.
“We don’t have to wait on lines,” explained the boy’s mom.
“We don’t wait on any lines at any of the parks,” She explained.
Me being me, I joked and said, “Well, we’ve been waiting on lines all week long. We should have hung out with you guys.”
Then I asked the mother, “How do you get skip all the lines?”
Her little boy was standing next to her. He was a beautiful boy. His smile was better than any I have ever seen in my life. I did not pay attention to his shirt. I did not really pay attention to anything else because I was stuck in my own sad little world.
When I asked, “How come?” the mother pointed to her son and said “Because it was his dream wish to come to Disney.”
And then it hit me. This little boy had cancer. He was most likely dying. And here I am in the happiest place in the world, healthy, my daughter was healthy too, and yet I am pissed off and miserable. We had all the privilege in the world, and yet there I was, complaining.
The realization hit me as quickly as the news was delivered by the mom. I had to turn away for a quick second. I did not want anyone to see me cry. Fortunately, we were taken in for our turn with the photos.
But when we came out, I saw the man that led us to the front. I reached across the counter and pulled him by the shirt. He was afraid at first and then I pointed to that beautiful little boy.
I had my right hand clinched on the collar of the man’s shirt and the other pointing to the boy. I asked, “Him?” and the man’s face changed to sullen. And all he said to me was, “Yeah,” as a sad acknowledgement.
I let the man go and apologized.
He said to me, “It’s okay. I get it.”
I looked around at my sad little problems. I thought about the joke it was that I held onto so many meaningless things just to be right or validated.
There I was, literally in the happiest place on Earth, miserable and holding onto the most unimportant ideas, which all stem from and begin with pride and ego.
And yet, this little boy never even had the chance to go to a prom. He never had the chance to play first base on a baseball team or even stay up late to watch a scary movie.
He was so young and amazing to me. And yet, chances are, he never had the opportunity to have his friends sleep over and build a blanket fort or a tent and sleep in it.
He didn’t deserve this. He was just a boy. That’s all. I’ve met bad people that did bad things but that boy never even had the chance to to say a bad four-letter word. How is that fair?
See, we are a strange breed. We tend to hold onto the wrong ideas. We hold resentments. We hold grudges. We hold each other hostages. Meanwhile, the little boy just wanted to do was hold the hand of Cinderella.
That little boy taught me a very powerful lesson. Rather than be right or always look for validation—learn to live for the moment because life has a way of slipping out from under us. And next, we find ourselves in a bad spot, looking back and wishing we would have paid attention to our priorities instead of placing the trivial things first.
I know what I’m going to wish for tonight.