Neither Mom nor I gave a 2nd thought to her going down to DisneyWorld in 1997 – at 87, she was as eager to hit the road as ever. It would be a life-changing trip, the long drive on which she first heard Stephen Covey, Marianne Williamson, John Bradshaw as I intermingled her beloved music cds with a carefully curated selection of personal development gurus.
It was also an illuminating trip for me, realizing that its success was rooted in letting Mom’s body clock set our schedule. Putting her first worked for both of us, maximizing the pleasure we both took over our travels. It was why, to her great surprise, she felt stronger, healthier when we returned home after almost two weeks away.
Twenty years since I fulfilled Mom’s dream of visiting EPCOT & she fulfilled one of mine by gaining the ability to detach from a consuming moment, to LIVE the truth gleaned from Viktor Frankl, learned through Stephen Covey – that between stimulus & response is the moment when we can choose our response. And it all started with going into the wilderness.
Subj: into the Wilderness
Date: Mon Nov 6 23:12:48 EST 2000
It is a relatively short hop from Jacksonville to Orlando, three hours at the most as I recall. As we got closer and closer to DisneyWorld, it seemed somehow more and more incredible that we were there.
I remember Elsa turning off the interstate and driving past lots of trees – as I remember it, it was sort of like the Pine Barrens. It felt like Florida because it felt like going to the shore.
The car was headed toward the sort of toll booths that welcome visitors to DisneyWorld. Except we were not visitors at DisneyWorld ~ we were going to be residents.
Elsa took a road that pulled to the right and followed the signs. I recall the thrill I felt when we saw the sort of wooden twiggish sign that announced “Wilderness Lodge.” We drove down the road and finally there it was up ahead, a place that looked exactly like … well, exactly like a wilderness lodge. It looked huge and like it was timbered and built with beautiful boulders and stones.
We parked the car out front, handed the keys over to a young man in a “ranger” outfit, saw our bags and our bag of stuffies whisked inside. We walked in the big doors and into the lobby and looked up and up and up. It was magnificent.
It looked just like one of those great lodges I have read about in National Geographic, except it was HUGE. Yet,somehow, it did not seem huge. It seemed cozy.
We checked in and Elsa left me settled into one of the big chairs that reminded me of my big chair in our living room and went upstairs with another one of the “ranger” staff members. When she came back 15 minutes later, she practically bounced off the elevator.
It seems that the “ranger” took her to our room – about as far from the elevator as you could get. The first thing she did was ask him what she needed to do to arrange a wheel chair for use during our stay. “Why?,” he wanted to know.
She explained that her 87-year old mother would be too tuckered out after doing the walk to get to anything else. He was on the phone in a flash and before Elsa knew it, our things were bundled back on the cart and redeposited in a room on the same floor, but right around the corner from the elevators.
Now, THAT is service.
The thing that amazed me with Wilderness Lodge from our very first glimpse was how it really did feel far away from everything. When we got off the elevator at our floor and looked out windows at the end of the hall and across from the elevator, all we could see were trees. All we could see from the balcony of our room was trees. It was more than I ever could have dreamed.
Elsa got our bags unpacked, the stuffies spread out over the armoire – around the TV and on top and all over the place – and tucked me in for a nap, then headed out to check out the Magic Kingdom.
One of the things that made the trip work so well was how many times we were together yet on our own.
Elsa glowed when she came back. I had awakened some time before and was just having a marvelous time, sitting out on our balcony, soaking in the view. She told me about taking pictures of elmo and three of the four Sissettes* – Sissy, Baby Girl (Kelly Zeigler’s) and Sissette (Brenda’s) in front of the Magic Kingdom and how a man asked if she would like to have her picture taken with them. She thought his offer was a hoot (and, no, she did not take him up on it). *Erin’s Stephie could not make it
Back in our room, watching as Elsa put the minkies back with the rest of the stuffies, I sensed something was not right. Picking up on my sense of foreboding, she did a head count and realized that Skylar, the almost life-size skunk puppet that Kelly found for John, was nowhere to be found! She looked high and low, no sign of Sky.
The last time she remembered seeing him was at the car, perched atop the baggage on the luggage cart.
Our hearts sank. Not only were we concerned to have lost him, we were trying to figure out what to tell John.
On our way to supper – we stayed close to home, choosing to eat at the Lodge that night – Elsa swung past the front desk and filled out a missing item report. I remember what she wrote – “Large skunk puppet; very friendly and always ready for a good time.” We had a sort of quiet supper, a combination of excitement and concern.
Afterwards, we soaked in the incredible beauty of the lobby, with its massive stone fireplace and chimney that reached up and up and up. We walked past the “mountain spring-fed” pool (the “mountain spring” started in the lobby and meandered its way along until it tumbled over a waterfall into the pool), out to the dock that lead to the boat that would take us the next day to the Magic Kingdom.
Standing there on the dock in the comfortably cool night air, with the lagoon stretched out in front of us and the magnificent lodge in back of us, we seemed a hundred miles away from civilization. It was the perfect place for us to stay and it is a perfect memory, three years later.
I expected that our digs for our stay would look sort of like a mountain lodge and that I’d feel sort of happy to be there. There was nothing sort of about it – it was wonderful, through and through.
As we looked around at the trees and water, we talked about Skylar – our storyline (which would continue and be embellished on for the rest of our stay) was that he had been overcome with the sense of the place as soon as he had clapped eyes on the lodge. Far from being lost, we figured, his wild side had overcome him and he had made a break for it when none of us were looking. We imagined him in the woods, having a high old time. The stories of Skylar’s exploits grew taller and taller as our stay went on – the next Disney production, Skylar in the Wilderness.
It is so lovely to go off to bed with a smile on my face and lovely, lovely memories playing tag between my head and heart. Am up the wooden hill.
Love to one and all – Skylar’s Grammie
from deev – we ultimately did reconnect with skylar, on the last day of our visit. returning from our afternoon outing, asking us to check, one of the “rangers” informed us the concierge had something for us. will always remember the look on the young woman’s face as she reunited us with our wandering boy.