THE TRAVELING CIRCUS
When I was a young girl, Christmas mornings always started out awkwardly.Right after waking up, the first order of business each year was to empty our stockings of its contents.In the homes of my friends this was a highly anticipated event because they could look forward to finding things like cassette tapes, candy, and other really cool items.In my family, however, this was not the case.
Grammy, my mother, was always too practical and frugal to splurge on desirable stocking stuffers.Instead of the latest recording by New Kids on the Block, I would pull out trial size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and hairspray sprinkled among pencils, erasers and thumbtacks.These meaningless fillers never expressed “love” to me.To me they expressed Grammy’s desire to meet an obligation rather than her wish to make me happy.The difficulty was showing enthusiasm for these Christmas Day bombs when I usually felt a bit appalled by the apparent lack of consideration.Year after year, though, I pasted a huge smile on my face and gushed with gratitude as I held up my pack of q-tips for everyone to see.It was an exercise in forbearance.
In this moment, I am reminded of that old, familiar feeling that accompanied every Christmas morn.Our 2-bedroom villa at Disney’s Old Key West Resort has a room capacity of eight plus a child under three.Grammy was expected to arrive with my nephew, Buddy, which would bring our room occupant number up to six plus a child under three.However, standing at the door to greet our new arrivals, I find Grammy and Buddy accompanied by my sister, brother-in-law and their set of toddling twins.
I stand at the door in shock as the traveling circus files into my peaceful retreat.Grammy sets her bags down near the couch, turns to me and says, “SURPRISE!”Politely I remark with a wide grin, “It sure is!Wow!”From here, the appropriate rounds of hugs are given to our new additions.
As Auntie and Uncle make multiple trips carrying in all the equipment that typically accompanies a pair of 18 month-old twins, Grammy gives her explanation for this unexpected treat.“Well, you’ve never had the chance to meet the twins since you live so far away, and there was room for two more here.I figured I’d bring everyone with me for the trip.Even though the twins put us over room capacity, no one will notice they are here.They are very quiet and as good as gold.”
I shift my position and face Angel and Pooter who have littered the entire living room with all of their playthings in a matter of minutes.DVDs, stuffed animals, riding toys, and countless plastic figurines are scattered everywhere.Every item has some type of electronic feature that loudly speaks, sings, or plays music, and the twins have mastered the trick of activating them all simultaneously.As Pooter glides by me on a toddler-sized fire truck that comes equipped with siren effects, I remark at an elevated decibel, “Oh yes, I’m sure that we’ll hardly know they’re here.”Grammy smiles in agreement.Obviously, the fact that I have to yell over the cacophony of preschool electronics to communicate with her escapes her observation.
I try to think of a statement of gratitude that would hold truth.Shouting above the escalating racket, I exclaim, “I am glad that I can finally see the twins!I’ve hated that I missed their first year of life, and I’ve longed to meet them!”This is accurate.In spite of the fact that Auntie never made a trip to my home for the sole purpose of visiting my children, I still regret that challenging circumstances have relegated me to the same fate.I have fully looked forward to introducing myself to my precious niece and nephew . . . just not necessarily in an overcrowded condo on my romantic 10th anniversary get-away.
I excuse myself from the conversation with Grammy to step out the front door and check on Uncle and Auntie who are still making trips back and forth from their SUV.I wonder if any Key West neighbors have spotted them.Is it possible that someone has been watching and keeping track of our party’s size?Would someone actually tally who goes in and out of our door, realize that we are in breach of room capacity restrictions and turn us “in” to Disney authorities?What consequences await those who dare to sneak in an extra two heads?Are we risking our good standing with Disney and in danger of being forever banned from Disney resorts?
I quickly glance back and forth to see if I can detect any suspicious onlookers, but no one is in sight.Perhaps the massive amount of unloading taking place has gone undetected, and we are clear for now.I can’t help but worry, though, as I wonder whether we will be able to keep our illegal activities under wraps for an entire week.The shame of being labeled a Disney criminal would be more than I could bear.
I turn to go back inside.Once I open the door, I am lambasted with the wailing of a little one.Something has upset Angel, and she wants everyone to know about it.Much to her dismay, though, no one is paying attention because there are too many other things happening.The television has been turned on and is playing at a high volume.My kiddos, who were napping, are napping no more.Instead, they have joined their cousins in an orgy of wild behavior in the living room.There is shouting, jumping, and dancing.
Grammy looks as if she has just entered Heaven.Finally seeing all six of her grandchildren in one room together has given her the treat of her life.She beams with pride, sitting on the plaid couch, and encourages the youngsters to get more riled up.
To myself, I do admit that it is a joyful site to behold.I just wish it had taken place at another time and in another location.I hadn’t intended on sharing my 10th anniversary with more than half of my extended family.When will DH and I ever find the time and space to be alone now?And will we be able to keep this menagerie from drawing too much attention to itself?
I bite my nails in my anxious state and close the front door.But as I walk toward the three-ring circus in my living room, my nerves subside a bit.I consider that this is not what I hoped for on my vacation.Nevertheless, it is the situation I now find myself in, and no matter what the show must go on.
Angel and Pooter still haven’t been formally introduced to me, and I realize it is time tocorrect this unfortunate fact.There is fun to be had with these little monsters, and I don’t want to miss it.“Angel and Pooter,” I call to the little people and gather them to my side, “How are you?I am your auntie.Have you ever heard of a Neurotic Disney Auntie?No?Well, you are looking at one.”