Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Your Heart Will Lead You Home

Now I'm not totally sure whether there are any of you left in the world that were not aware, but on the off chance that you're not, guess what? Two weeks ago my mum packed up all the chocolate buttons and Percy Pigs that Virgin Atlantic would allow her to take onto a plane and hopped aboard flight VS015 to Orlando to visit her favourite (and only, in fact) daughter!

Having had a relatively dramatic goodbye at the airport eight months ago, my mum had warned me that she was likely to cry when I saw her again. 

'Oh no!' I had said aloud when I read her text, rolling my eyes as I did so, 'that's ridiculous, I hope she doesn't cry.'

So as my taxi pulled up to our hotel alongside the coach that I thought she was probably on, I explained the situation to my driver. Well, kinda. I managed the words 'I'm about to see my mum again for the first time in....' before the sobs started. 

That's right. It was me that cried.

He turned round, smiled at me and said 'It's okay Rebecca. You can cry. It's a big deal.'

Managing to compose myself, I hopped out of the taxi and shouted a dramatic (and probably unnecessary) 'Muuuum' across the hotel lobby. She didn't hear. So I grabbed my things and did a little excited trot toward her and my grandparents. 

So before my family came out here to visit I had heard a lot of things from my friends and colleagues about what happens when people from home come to stay- both good and bad, and mostly expected only good things to be true. 

Fortunately for me, I was right. 

We spent most of our time laughing, I was devastated when they left (this afternoon. I am currently drowning my sorrows in a bag of chocolate buttons), and some of my favourite memories of my entire year will be from the past two weeks. 

Since arriving in Orlando I have had several conversations with different people that have ended in: 'wait, you said that to your mum?!' which have led me to believe that perhaps I have an unusual relationship with my mum. One of my friends suggested that my mum sounds more like my sister. Never have I felt that more than the past two weeks, as we spent most of our time giggling at my poor grandparents (I say poor but I do think that a. they walk into these things a lot of the time and b. it's what grandparents are for. Kind of like a rite of passage, maybe?).

So here, especially for you, are some of my favourite hilarious moments from the past two weeks....

1. The Sea World Incident. 

As those of you who have ever been lucky enough to visit the Second Happiest Place On Earth will know, before each Shamu show the hosts ask all past and present soldiers from all around the world to stand up and be applauded as dramatic, patriotic music plays triumphantly in the background.  

It's an emotional moment and magical to watch. You look across the audience with pride and admiration as you see men dotted around standing up with their hands on the hearts and solemn looks on their faces.....until...wait...'Grandma! Mum! You're not soldiers! Sit down! Oh for goodness sake.' 

Both of their faces look at me in confusion: 'But they said from the United Kingdom.' 

'Yes, soldiers from the United Kingdom. Sit down.'

2. The Very-Clean-Glass-Door Incident. 

I probably don't even need to tell this story, I think the title alone explains exactly what happened. 

For those of you who have been lucky enough never to experience it and therefore cannot work it out at all....

On our last night we were about to leave for dinner when my Grandad announced to everyone that he was closing the balcony door so that we were ready to go. 

Despite hearing, and even responding to this, my mum proceeded to attempt to go onto the balcony without opening the door again, smacking her head and leg straight into the (unfortunately very well polished) glass. You couldn't make it up. 

3. My Criminal Mastermind Grandparents. 

I've heard that you learn a lot about people when you go on holiday with them: this is one trait that I never expected to find in my sweet Grandma and Grandad.

One morning my Grandad knocked on the door between our adjoining rooms (something that Disney assumed we would want, not something that we asked for), to ask if I wanted any milk for my cereal. As he asked he held out two of the free creamers that the hotel provide for coffee and tea. 

Good idea, I thought. Take an extra couple of those to put on your cereal in the morning. 

Before I could respond he added 'here you are, take some more', and proceeded to empty his pockets of what I can only assume was Disney's annual allowance for creamers. 

Later that day, we were in a park when something was spilt (probably hot chocolate. In a rare moment of self-effacing I will admit that I spent more time throwing hot chocolate over myself and others this holiday than I did on rides and eating combined), when my Grandma pulled one of the hotel flannels from her bag and began cleaning with it. 

My first thought on both of those occasions was that you can get away with it when you're grandparents, but my mum soon very wisely pointed out that The Schumachers didn't. (Those of you struggling to understand this reference need to go and watch Dirty Dancing. Right now. Don't even worry about finishing this post. That's more important.) 

(Also I feel obliged to point out that my Grandma did return all towel items belonging to Disney to the hotel. Thank you.) 

4. The Hand-Clapping, Leg-Slapping Incident. 

As those of you who have ever had family visit will know- it can be quite stressful. My family are probably the most laid back, happy, go-with-the-flow, easy-to-please people I know. Any stress that I  felt was most certainly caused by me. But when you've left them to go and live somewhere else for a year- somewhere that you love so much that you've made it clear that you would happily never come home again, there's a lot of pressure to impress them. I wanted them to love it as much as I do and to understand why I've made some of the decisions that I've made. Which is why when I took them to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, a dinner show that is one of my favourite things in the whole of Disney World, I wanted them to like it. It was one of the most expensive things that they did while they were here, it took up one of my lovely Danish visitors' few evenings and it's quite American and very silly so I didn't want them to be unimpressed. 

The second time that I saw it I was joined by a group who had never seen it before and I struggled to judge whether they were enjoying it or not (it turned out that they were but only after about the first twenty minutes, which made me even more nervous for my family's reaction). 

We went in and sat down, met our server and the lovely chef (because my family were lucky enough to be joined by Dumbo that evening who is vegetarian so needed to discuss her meal choice. From now on I will always be vegetarian at Hoop-Dee-Doo in the hope that the chef there could become my green card), ordered our drinks and took in the surroundings. 

When we had finished our appetisers the music began, telling us that the show was about to start. I turned to my mum to tell her that our server was trying to take her plate and to check that she was okay so far, and the memory of what I saw will keep me smiling on my most miserable days. 

There was a reason that the server couldn't take her plate. 

She was clapping her hands, stamping her feet and nodding her head so enthusiastically that the poor server was frightened of being knocked out. Her face was lit up with glee (I wouldn't often use the world glee but I feel it's the only one good enough here), and, as I looked around the table, so was everybody else's.

5. The Soarin' Incident.

Soarin' is Epcot's most popular attraction, appealing to guests of all age, gender, background and experience. It is described by Disney as providing guests 'with a scenic aerial tour of California.' It's a calm, gentle float over California, appealing to all of the senses with what I always think of as Harry-Potter-style music over the top.

My mum managed Tower of Terror (described as an 'accelerated drop tower thrill ride'), Rock 'n' Roller Coaster ('an attraction for fans of cutting edge thrill rides'), and Space Mountain ('high speed journey into the darker reaches of outer space') with absolutely no problem all, but spent the first thirty seconds of the 'gentle float over California' screaming like a banshee.

6. The Husband Incident.

Six months ago I had what I like to call my Miranda-Moment. If you've seen Miranda you will totally understand why, if you haven't- you definitely should- but I think you'll still find the story funny.

I was in the queue for the changing rooms in a clothes store near where I live when the attendant began speaking to me. After establishing that I was from the UK he pointed to the (very attractive) man behind me in the queue and asked 'so are you and your husband having a good time?'

At this point I obviously should have quietly informed him of his mistake, given him a reassuring smile and gone to try my dress on.

But I was having a Miranda-Moment.

So instead I turned to look at the (very attractive) man behind me in the queue and said:

'Oh he's not my husband! No! Ooh I wish he was, he's lovely. He's not though. Not that I mean. Well. I have a boyfriend. But I'm only 24! Faaar to young to be married. Anyway. Um. I think I'll just leave the dress. Thanks. Thank you. Bye.'

(The 'bye' was accompanied by a girlish wave and coy smile at my would-be husband.)

How embarrassing.

Anyway. The reason I'm telling this story now is because I was back at that shopping centre with my family last week and was telling that very story before we returned to that store.

When we arrived at the changing rooms and were waiting for a free cubicle, another very attractive man had locked himself out of his while he was parading in his new clothes and was being helped back in by the- this time female- attendant.

After she had let him back in she turned to me and said 'he looked gorgeous, didn't he?'

Before I had time to reply, she continued, 'he is your husband, isn't he?'

Thankfully, I had learnt my lesson the first time and managed to very gracefully explain that he wasn't (before sharing a look with my mum that said- wish he was though!).

I therefore now wholly believe that I will meet my husband in that store, and will be dividing all my spare time between those changing rooms and Hoop-Dee-Doo. 

7. The Fish-Of-The-Day Incident. 

I mentioned above that my family were lucky enough to be joined by Dumbo at Hoop-Dee-Doo, but they were also lucky to be joined by Dale on several occasions and Tigger once too.

The Fish-Of-The-Day Incident occurred when Tigger was out for dinner with us and I am so grateful that he was there to witness my family at their most natural and most funny. 

So, picture the scene. 

Our server, Nancy, is spieling the menu to us like the professional she is. 

"Our fish of the day today is Pan-Seared Salmon, it comes with lemon sticky rice, fresh green beans and is topped with mushrooms, it is absolutely delicious, I cannot recommend it enough."

Tigger: 'And how much is the fish of the day?' 

Nancy (having misheard slightly): 'It's pan-seared salmon, it comes with-'

Tigger: 'Sorry, I meant how much does it cost?'

Nancy: 'Oh, I'm sorry! It's 21.99.' 

Grandad (as though it's a totally new topic): 'And could you tell me what the fish of the day is please?' 

8. The Creme Brulee Incident. 

This story is the last I will tell you just now and is actually the story of why you can't take me anywhere. 

On this occasion my family were joined by Dale (we did spend some time alone, I promise), we were at a Disney resort restaurant and were being served by a giant of a man named James. 

By the time we were ready for dessert James was clearly too busy so we were instead greeted by Nikita. 

Nikita was from Japan. 

Now before I go on with this story I need to make a few things clear. 

Firstly- anyone who has ever been to see Avenue Q with me (lots of people, I've seen it far more times than is socially acceptable), or has ever worked with me alongside Fix-It Felix will know that I find the Japanese accent nothing short of hilarious. 

Secondly, the reason I find it so funny is my own immaturity. I cannot speak Japanese and if I could I have no doubt that I would speak it with an equally funny accent. Probably on par with my English-speaking-Spanish accent. 

Please nobody take offence. I am a nice person. 

So, first of all I had this inane grin because Dale made some comment (so that only I could hear) about James having lost weight. 

Then Nikita began to speak and I had an even bigger grin imagining Fix-It Felix (who shares my love for the Japanese accent) being there and what his reaction (and later impression) would be like.  

Then Nikita recommended the Creme Brulee. Now I don't know if you've ever heard a Japanese person say Creme Brulee but I'd like you to take this moment, please, to imagine it. 

By this time I was holding my breath and hiding behind my menu in an attempt to avoid embarrassing my family and- more importantly- Nikita. 

When she left I was genuinely concerned for my breathing I was laughing so much. You know when there are so many tears running down your face you could actually be mistaken for crying? Your tummy hurts, your chest hurts. I actually haven't laughed that much for as long as I can remember. 

None of my family laughed. 

Dale was actually wearing an expression of nothing short of disgust. 

Fix-It Felix thought it was hilarious when I told him and has continued to provide me with re-enactments ever since :)

Now my family's trip here wasn't all making-fun-of-each-other and embarrassing-everyone, at the risk of sounding like a Walt Disney World advert, we did actually have some truly magical moments...

1. Cupcakes. 

When the cashier at the Animal Kingdom Quick Service saw our Family Reunion Badges she gave us no hint at all that she was going to provide us with free cupcakes. The food then came out with beautiful cakes and a receipt with *magical moment* written on. It was probably nothing to her but it was amazing to us and I'm sure we'll be talking about it for years to come. 

Equally magical (though slightly odd) was the free dessert that my grandparents were provided with at another Disney restaurant to congratulate them on their anniversary. Where they got the idea that it was their anniversary we don't know, but we didn't argue....

2. The Lion King. 

I have raved and raved and raved some more for eight months to my family about how amazing The Festival of The Lion King in Animal Kingdom is. It's my favourite thing to do in the whole of Walt Disney World and in my humble opinion they will never beat it. So, like Hoop Dee Doo, I felt a lot of pressure for my family to love it as much as I do. 

I spent the whole time stressing that they wouldn't enjoy it because we had an annoying, noisy child in front of us, or because of the woman whose Mickey ears were blocking the stage. At the end, I turned to my mum and asked what she thought. 

Eyes filled with tears, she squeaked 'I can't talk right now', and gulped down an entire bottle of water. 

Same reaction as me then. 

3. Meeting Belle.

Belle is my mum's favourite character. Meeting her was one of the first things we did on the first day of the holiday and it was probably one of the most magical moments I've experienced since moving here. She made a huge deal of the fact that it was a family reunion, asked us plenty of questions and- to seal the deal and make her officially the best character we met- told us that my Grandma reminded her of Mrs Potts. What a brilliant judge of character Belle is.

4. Fantasmic. 

We planned our whole day around seeing Fantasmic. It is my favourite firework show here and I wanted them to see it the way that I saw it the first time: I had absolutely no idea what it was, I just went in and sat down right in the middle (perfect seats) and watched it with no expectation whatsoever. 

Somehow, at the last minute, our plans went wrong. 

We could only get standing positions to watch it- right from the side, squashed between lots of been-in-Disney-all-day, tired, fairly smelly people. 

We decided to return the next day and wait for an hour for a middle, seated position. 

It was totally worth it. 

If only for the tears in the eyes of my normally sensible, composed Grandma. 

5. Meeting Buzz and Woody. 

You know how you get a little tear watching the Disney ad where the little girl meets Cinderella for the first time and she's so overwhelmed and starstruck? (Okay, well I do.) That's what my mum meeting Woody was like. I thought she was going to burst into tears. She didn't, and I'm thankful for that, but it was magical all the same. 

6. Right words, right time.

On our last morning I was wearing my beautiful white dress when I threw hot chocolate all over it in front of a very busy canteen. I was tired, emotional, embarrassed, soaking wet, boiling hot and annoyed.

You know when you have those moments when you think: if I cannot do something as simple as this without it being a disaster, how useless am I?

It's normally sleeping through my alarm that causes that thought in my head, but on this occasion I kept thinking: why can't I just wear a white dress like a normal person without it being something to worry about?

I had to go back upstairs and change, wash my dress out then carry it around in a plastic bag for the rest of the day and whip it out into the sun every time we sat down anywhere. Then I left it in a restaurant and had to get a bus back again to pick it up.

When I told my Grandad he said: 'I'm glad I'm not the only one that does things like that.'

Those words might seem simple and obvious now but at the time they meant the whole world.

Immediately I was reminded that I'm human, and my self-esteem began to rise again.

Just like magic :)

I like to think that you will be able to tell that I had the most amazing time whilst my family were here and I would happily keep them here for as long as I stay...

...but as long as I'm having to live without them, there is nowhere I would rather be.

I sighed as their coach pulled away to take them to the airport, and with tears in my eyes said 'back to reality.'

So I hopped on a bus and went back to reality.

I went for ice cream at midnight with Dale, then the following morning to Epcot to work with the wonderful cast of Walt Disney World, then to Italy for dinner, America for a Boyz II Men concert and France for wine with five of the most beautiful, funny girls I have ever been lucky enough to meet.

One day, not too far from now, I'm going to have to return to a different reality. One that doesn't involve eating round the world, meeting Princesses or dancing under the moon with the Mad Hatter (that did happen once, but that's a story for another time).

That day is one that I have been dreading for eight months.

But seeing my family again was a little reminder of how wonderful that reality can be too.

Climbing into bed with my mum in the morning to tell her about the night before, laughing with my cousins about the fact that Grandad gets more dinner on his chin than in his mouth when we're round there for tea, or grabbing my brothers and hugging them for no reason at all other than that I got a little rush of love for them when they walked past in their jammies and bed hair are all part of an amazing reality too.

So for now I will make the most of midnight ice cream, spontaneous Wishes and random concerts, but I will stop making depressed faces when anyone mentions February, and start to look forward to the time that I'm once again reunited with my wonderful family.

Aren't I lucky? :) 

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