Every year for the past several years, my parents have made the 12-hour drive from their home in North Alabama to Central Florida during the month of December, ostensibly to spend a week with their favorite (and only) son. This past December was no exception.
If you ever want to get a glimpse of why you are the way you are, just get in a room with your ancestry for about a week. It will either be sobering or fun. In the case of my parents, it’s always the latter.
They both have a wonderful sense of humor and love to remember the amusing things that have happened over the course of their years together. There is no dearth of stories to tell and they still love to tell them, lo these many years hence.
Although thankfully my dad has mellowed over the years as far as being a practical joker, he still loves to tell how he played a trick on my mother while they were stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey (pre me). Here’s how it generally goes:
“I sat her down in the middle of the floor and gave her a fork; I had a glass of water and a towel. I poured the water on the floor in front of her between her legs and told her I bet I could wipe it up before she could stab me with the fork.
“Once she agreed to take me up on it, I got down in position. I said ‘Ready?’ She raised her fork and said ‘Ready’. I then grabbed her by the ankles and pulled her through the puddle of water.”
She didn’t stab him with the fork, although I’m sure there isn’t a jury alive who would have found her guilty if she had.
Then there was the time we were coming out of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry when I was a teenager. A guy was sitting on the steps of the museum playing a tune on a small woodwind instrument.
“What’s that guy playing?” my dad asked.
“That’s a recorder,” I replied.
“No – I’m pretty sure he’s really playing it,” he replied in all seriousness.
Explains a whole lot about me…
Anyway, the Lounge doesn’t host many visitors (if one doesn’t count the lizards and the occasional mosquito squadron) so, due to my high tolerance for clutter and grime, the only room I keep in show-ready condition is the living room, just in case someone from Publishers Clearing House shows up on my doorstep with that big check for a million dollars. So when the ‘rents come a-calling a flurry of good housekeeping ensues.
After the requisite week-long cleaning and deodorizing assault on the Lounge prior to their arrival, I was down to the home stretch the Saturday morning they were supposed to get here, with only toilet-scrubbing and kitchen-mopping left on the checklist. My mom called around 11:00 that morning telling me they would be there in two hours – easily enough time to get done what I had left to get done.
I was standing there in my boxer shorts and socks, the still-dry mop in hand, when they walked in an hour later.
“I know – we made good time.”
“Traffic wasn’t bad at all.”
Once that bit of truth was firmly established, I suggested that I go get dressed. Of course, they’ve both seen me naked but it’s been more than 50 years, so…ewww. As I headed off to find some pants, I warned, “Don’t look at the floor.” (No doubt the first thing they did was look.)
Once I was clothed and we had hugs all around, we launched head-first into a week-long whirlwind of music, buffets, and Disney magic, despite their (our) advanced ages.
First on the agenda were two performances of my church’s Christmas program, with Sunday School and a Chinese buffet in between. Since I haven’t been a Christian, much less a church-goer, for very long, this is a fairly new addition to our December visit. And I must say, we put on a pretty amazing program at First Baptist Church at the Mall, complete with choir, full orchestra (with me at the piano), costumes, lighting, and theatre (I also wrote the dramatic presentation for this year’s performance). Being lovers of music, in addition to being lovers of me, my parents thoroughly enjoyed the program, almost as much as they enjoyed the Chinese buffet.
They’re kind of Chinese buffet royalty. I hear they even have their own table at the one in their small town in Alabama. I can only imagine the numerous paddies worth of fried rice and droves of sweet-n-sour pork they’ve scarfed down over the years. They avow that the buffet we always frequent after church isn’t as good as the one back home, but I’ve never seen anybody push away from the table hungry. Just saying…
An additional perk of their visit has always been spending several days at the Walt Disney World® Resort, although for some time now I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that seeing Disney is actually the whole point of the trip, with seeing me being merely the additional perk. (Sort of like the little moist towelette that comes with your meal at the rib place even after you’ve licked your fingers clean and don’t really need it.) They’ll tell you otherwise, but they also tend to cheat at miniature golf, so it’s hard to trust them. More on that later.
So, as we have for the past eight years, we spent the rest of the week at Disney, where we enjoyed our favorite attractions, shows, and holiday events at each of the four theme parks.
Rather than give a ride-by-ride account of our romp through the 47 square miles, four theme parks, and at least one of the miniature golf courses of the Walt Disney World® Resort, I’ll just hit a couple of highlights (skipping the endless buffet tour as well).
Although my parents are more “show” people than “ride” people, each year we wait in the longest line in the free world (except for the line at the grocery store when chicken is on sale) to ride Soarin’™, a ride that lifts multiple rows of seats up in the air in a simulated hang-gliding trip over California, complete with the wind in your air and whatever aromas one might encounter sailing over the various vistas of the Eureka state (pine forests, orange blossoms, or sea air). My mother always lets loose a little squeal of delight when the ride mechanism first hoists us up in the air. (I like to think that’s the same squeal she emitted when she first saw me.)
At some point during the week we also catch a performance of the Candlelight Processional at Epcot®, a presentation featuring choir, orchestra, and celebrity narrator telling the Christmas story through traditional carols and the story of Jesus’s birth from the Bible. This year’s narrator was Lorraine Bracco of The Sopranos fame.
Although we love the music, especially the finale performance of “Hallelujah!” from Handel’s Messiah, we all admit to being fascinated by the sign language interpreter. Depending on the individual interpreter, the signing of the lyrics of the carols in time to the music is more like ballet than mere communication, with majestic, sweeping motions and engaging, almost angelic, facial expressions. After the performance, we all give our evaluation: “She was OK, but she wasn’t as good as that guy last year…etc.”, as though we are the American Idol judges for sign language interpreters.
Finally, we always make time to compete against each other in the “Elderly Open”, our own annual miniature golf classic at Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course.
The golf course is designed to look like an elf-sized vacation spot, with one half depicting Santa and the elves vacationing in Florida (the Summer course) and the other depicting a golf course at the North Pole (the Winter course). We always play the Winter Course.
I was actually joking above when I said they cheat, since I’m always the one stuck with keeping score; however, I don’t understand how one or the other of them always manages to win. They may be old people, but they can both knock a purple or green golf ball over the little lift bridge and through the blades of the windmill into that little hole with alarming accuracy. If it wasn’t for watching them get sprayed with water when the snowman squirts it out of his carrot nose I wouldn’t continue to put myself through the humiliation of playing with them.
Anyway, we always have a lot of fun and I’m always sad to see them go (and not just because they always pick up the tab and let me drive their new keyless Nissan). They’re fun and laugh at all my jokes and love me with unabashed ferocity.
Can’t beat that. Even if they do cheat…