CRUEL AND UNUSUAL
It has been the longest morning of my life. I have endured five hours of driving in a cramped van with argumentative and whiny children through a thunderstorm that was apocalyptic. DD7 has refused to sleep since I woke her this morning at 2:30am, and it shows. Her frazzled nerves have brought her to the brink of a meltdown. Tears roll down her cheeks as she pleads for a rational explanation of the cruel and unusual punishment our mysterious “adventure” has inflicted upon her.
It occurs to me that stopping at Pop-Pop and B-moms home for a couple hours of rest was not worth the trouble. Instead of being refreshed by that time off the highway, my World travelers have become resentful of our return to the road. As a result, our current state of misery is intense.
We might have been better off had I activated my NDM superpower that enables me to drive without tiring when en route to Disney. It is a type of mojo that most NDMs possess and provides more energy than a six-pack of Mountain Dew. I am willing to bet my whiskers that simply staying the Disney course would have allowed for smoother travels. The kids would have eventually slept due to exhaustion; they would not have been upset by grandparent withdrawal, and we would be at Disney already. If we could just pull off this Disney surprise, though, it would be worth the trouble.
“We’re not going to make it,” I state to DH who is still diligently navigating our southbound trek. “Maybe we will,” DH expresses positively, “”We passed the state line a little bit ago. The weather has cleared. The kids have been fed. Perhaps they’ll settle.” I look over my shoulder to observe DD7. Rolling tears are quickly headed towards a “sobbing” classification. I read frustration, anger and sorrow in her eyes. The whole thrill of a surprise arrival at Walt Disney World is in grave danger.
“Nope,” I inform DH, “We are losing them. We have to tell them. Let’s pull over at the Welcome Center. I’ll get out the camcorder, and we can film their reaction to our announcement. It won’t be as good as letting them discover it when we get there. However, they are too miserable to enjoy it at this stage anyway.” DH agrees, and he pulls over when he sets eyes on the ramp.
I herd my cranky brood to the concrete curbside after releasing them from their backseat bondage. Their irritated manners keep them blind to the fact that they are in front of the Florida Welcome Center. This loathsome bunch squints in the bright sun, and DH and I state that we need to tell them something. DD7 plops her bottom on the sidewalk, sighs, and rests her troubled head in her hands. She is not even remotely interested in hearing anything we have to say. The others follow her example.
I announce in the peppiest voice I possess, “We have figured out where we are going on our adventure.” DD2 (who is observing her new surroundings) screams, “Look! It’s a bird!” I try not to be discouraged by her short attention span even though I am about to make the announcement of her life.
DS5 decides to take a stab at guessing our destination. “Pop-pop’s house,” he yells with enthusiasm. DD2 tunes in at the mention of my dad and sweetly expresses, “I want to go to Pop-Pop’s.” DD7 continues to scowl, for she knows that Pop-Pop’s home is not where we are headed. “No,” I explain, “We are on an adventure, remember? We are not going to Pop-Pop’s house.” DD2 tunes out once again and continues to observe the buzzards overhead.
I resume my attempt at unveiling our breaking news and give DH a chance to be involved in this special family moment by asking, “DH, where are we going on our adventure?” DH perks up at the opportunity to be the one to actually enlighten our mouseketeers. “Disney World,” he yells with enthusiasm. The big announcement flops. DD7 looks confused. DS5 is distracted and looking off in the distance. DD2’s blank expression betrays the fact that she has not understood anything we just said.
In order to teach our children the appropriate response to this fantastic revelation, DH and I jump around and holler in happiness. Our children pay no mind to the spectacle we create in spite of the bewildered looks of others who observe us. “Look at the trees,” DS5 exclaims and points at something he discovers to be of great interest. He is ignored, however, because DD7 skeptically interjects, “Is this a trick?” In her eyes, our motivations are questionable because of her rough morning. DS5 continues to look far off and insists, “Look at the trees!” DD2’s blank stare remains.
I answer DD7’s inquiry, “No, do you know what state we are in?” She shakes her head with a furrowed brow. “Look at the trees,” DS5 demands and points again. I continue to ignore DS5 and answer my own question, “FLORIDA!” DD7 falls back into a horizontal position in the middle of the Welcome Center’s sidewalk. The revelation of her arrival in Walt Disney World on this very day has overwhelmed her.
DS5 continues, “Look at the trees!” DD2 interrupts with a random comment. As she presents hands that have been in contact with the walkway, she reports, “Mommy, my hands are dirty.” I look over her messy limbs and begin to brush them off, but DS5 will not be put off any longer. He emphatically hollers, “I WANT TO TALK NOW! LOOK AT THE TREES!”
I turn around to discover that DS5 has been intrigued by the unfamiliar appearance of palm trees. I am thrilled that he has found something to help him grasp the concept of being in a new place. “Yes, son,” I affirm, “Those are palm trees! Palm trees grow in Florida! We are in Florida! Do you want to go to Disney World?” DD2 has tuned in once again and declares with excitement, “I want to go to Disney World!” DS5—who has finally grasped the concept of our impending adventure–agrees with a definitive, “YES!”
The mouseketeers leap to their feet. Cheers erupt from our group that has finally been united in the bliss of Walt Disney World anticipation. Joining DH and me in our Disney hullabaloo, our little ones dance about. We draw the stares of passers-by. But as the children chant, “We are going to Disney World! We are going to Disney World,” the observers nod their heads in understanding.
“Back to the van,” I instruct with glee. Our entire family breaks out in a dead run except for DH who is happy but not happy enough to run. All three children gladly submit to their backseat bondage this time, and the remaining four hours of driving are remarkably pleasant.