(..but you can't take Disney out of the girl.)
"Can I borrow a screwdriver?"
The bellhop looked at me, cocking an eyebrow while still maintaining that Disney smile. A quick look at her badge showed her Steamboat Willie year pin, only bestowed to Cast Members who made it past the first year anniversary with the Disney Corporation. She knew what she was doing.
Without questioning my motives, she handed over the screwdriver, her smile never wavering. I smiled back and immediately crouched down just beyond the bellhop desk and started taking apart Sprite's stroller.
Families passed by in that busy section of the Contemporary Resort's lobby, while I sprawled out near the wall, unscrewing the sodden seat from the Graco frame. Casting an eye about as I set about my work, I noticed the same bellhop smile in recognition, which proved that I wasn't the first person to attempt this. I also noticed some other tourists starting to loosely gather around me, as if expecting me to be a planted performer. (Planted performers are those who will be walking in the middle of the park, blending in with everyone, and then completely break out in song and dance, or a skit, or even a mime act. After a few days in the parks, it will become routine to every park goer.) I made eye contact with them to show that I was just another clueless guest and continued dismantling the stroller, although I would be back for a repeat performance when it was time to reassemble it.
John was upstairs in the room with Sprite, trying to calm her down for a nap, somewhat fruitless as she had, just one hour before, been standing inside Cinderella's castle and wanted to go back NOW, regardless of the fact that the severe weather had chased us away.
The morning had dawned overcast and angry. A cold front was headed in, pushing a massive group of thunderstorms ahead of it, prompting heavy rain, frequent lightning, and for kicks, a tornado watch effective until noon. The afternoon promised to clear up considerably though, so John and I quickly decided we would play in the Magic Kingdom until Sprite's lunchtime or flooding pushed us out, and then would come back in the afternoon after her nap to stay until the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was over.
We had two agendas we wanted to achieve before calling it a day. Meet Ariel (the Mermaid) and Minnie Mouse, Sprite's two most talked about characters.
Walking into the park, we joined the rest of the
lemmings tourists walking quickly through Main Street U.S.A. to journey through Cinderella's Castle and into Fantasy Land. Sprite seemed a little overwhelmed at first by the enormity of the building she had seen at the beginning of every Disney DVD we owned. If Tinker Bell had flown out and doused pixie dust over the structure, I doubt the child would have been surprised. After we walked out toward the carousel, she looked back to the gated doors and pointed. "Castle!" This proved to be a word that would stay with us even now, weeks later.
We were able to immediately cross one item off our list, meeting Ariel. Sprite saw her from her spot in line and chattered, "Ariel! The Mermaid! Mermaid, Ariel. Is here!" As we moved closer to meeting King Triton's wayward daughter, Sprite's chant became more insistent. "Ariel, Mermaid, Mermaid. O'dair. Mermaid. Is here! Hi, Mermaid!" Finally, our turn came. And Sprite clammed up. I have to hand it to Ariel for doing her best to draw Sprite out of her shell, but it turns out that Sprite prefers to adore her Princesses from afar.
Keeping an eye on the weather, we joined some lines and exposed Sprite to the wonderful world of animatronics. Every time we exited an attraction, we looked up and gaged how much time we had left before the heavens opened up and drowned us out. Deciding we had enough time, we tried to stand in line to meet Donald and Goofy, who were posing down in Adventure Land. And then it happened.
Down came the rain and flushed the tourists out. Deciding this was our cue, we rushed for the Monorail and were sitting down to eat lunch thirty minutes later at the Contemporary while the deluge continued. Realizing we had a couple of hours to kill while enforcing nap time, John volunteered to stay with the cranky child while I tried to go about drying out her soaking stroller since we would either have to use the same wet seat for her fanny in a few hours time when the rain let up or rent a stroller and hope our trusty Graco would dry out in time for the next day at the Animal Kingdom.
I had the ultimate Mommy moment as I realized I could use the Resort's laundry to toss our wet stroller fabric and sweaters in for a quick turn in the spin cycle (No, not THAT spin cycle..) and promptly ran downstairs and laid out on the marble tiles of the lobby to use the bellhop's tools and draw some attention of my own.
Of course, once the stroller material and the sweaters were dry, I wandered back over to the lobby and borrowed the screwdriver yet again, receiving a smile from the same bellhop and some more stares from strangers who seemed to think a woman straddling a buggy frame was definitely more strange than the ensemble of pink and yellow stripes they had decided to wear that day.
As I finished my little display of "crazy tourist" behavior, I noticed a small crowd gathered around the Christmas tree toward the front of the lobby. I wheeled the empty stroller closer and realized who was attracting the throng. Minnie Mouse herself. Dang it! The kid was still napping. I searched out and found Minnie's escort. (If you ever want information on when a character is going to be appearing again, don't ask the character. Ask the escort. They know EVERYTHING!) "Do you know if Minnie will be coming back anytime today?" I asked quietly.
The escort looked around and back to me. "She's making a couple of surprise appearances around the hotel, but she'll be back here in front of the tree at 3," he answered, his voice also low.
I smiled triumphantly. I had about an hour to get Sprite up, dressed, tressed, and ready to present to the Mouse.
I returned to the room, noting from my view of the outside that the sky had lightened considerably, driving out the rain and bringing in the cold weather. Once Sprite got to meet her Minnie Mouse, we would take her back to the park for some more fun. An hour later, Sprite was up, changed, and in a dour mood. If she wasn't crying, she was petulant. If she wasn't petulant, she was glaring. John and I set our standards for a successful meeting with Minnie very low and arrived downstairs at the stroke of three for her date with destiny.
We saw the escort first. Then, Minnie came in behind him. I immediately turned to Sprite and watched her expression go from gargoyle to giggling. "Minnie!" she breathed, realizing the object of her affections was in fact real and standing about 8 feet away from her. Minnie noticed her as well, and since there were no other children around just yet, Sprite had her Minnie Mouse all to herself.
Thank goodness for Minnie, for when we returned to the park for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Sprite was in the perfect mood and we had a wonderful time traipsing about the grounds, pointing out every major Disney player in the parade, and then taking in the fireworks show, which, even to someone like me who KNEW how everything in the Kingdom worked, left me speechless.
I mean, just look at the castle and tell me that wouldn't take your breath away:
Um, you may want to close your mouth before the flies get in..
Here, a couple of other pictures to help ring in your New Year: