Last week my family had the opportunity to take a theme park vacation in Orlando, Florida. This is not the norm for our family. If we take a vacation, we usually hole up in a cabin in the woods for a few days. But my son is a Harry Potter fan and my daughter wants to be a marine biologist, so we loaded up the car with comfortable shoes and plenty of sunscreen and headed for the BIG theme parks.
A word about me. I am a bargain momma. If I am going to take a once in a lifetime visit to Orlando’s theme parks, I am going to get every penny and every minute’s worth out of it. I planned for months on what package would give us the most bang for our buck and what itinerary would let us see the most things in the time we had available.
One of the parks had a slogan, “Vacation like you mean it.” I was taking that motto to heart.
We were seizing every bit of every day and every dollar.
Until I wasn’t.
Until the whole merry vacation came to a screeching halt for me and I barely knew up from down.
A couple of other words about me. I have a bad history with whiplash so I don’t ride roller coasters. I hold everyone’s gear and meet them at the exit of the ride.
I also have a terrible sense of direction.
So maybe it wasn’t the best choice when my family got on the Manta roller coaster for me to take a detour before heading directly to the coaster exit.
You see I had gotten a perk with our package. A free “cup that cares.” I was thinking this meant a refillable cup we could use throughout the park. It was getting hot and I was thirsty so I thought I would grab one of these “cups that care” while the family was on the ride.
Off I go to the nearest drink station who sent me to the nearest gift shop who sent me to guest relations. It turns out having a free perk is complicated. When I finally got the ticket for the “cup that cares” that had to be redeemed in the penguin gift shop (the penguin shop?), I was totally turned around. I scanned around and tried to see where the coaster exit was, but no luck.
I got a little anxious and started asking everyone around me where the coaster exited. No luck there either. I walked and I walked. The more nervous I got the faster I walked.
Finally I asked a park employee where the coaster exit was and he gave me directions. Straight ahead and then take a right.
Soon I found myself in the shark area. I asked more people where the exit for the coaster was and they pointed the way. Finally I found myself at the gift shop exit for the Mako coaster. I looked around the area. No family. Surely they would be coming off the ride soon. I plopped our packs down and waited on a bench just outside the gift shop.
Five minutes passed. Then ten.
My family had ridden using the Quick Que so counting the time I was lost plus the time I had been waiting, I felt like they should have been off by now. Had I missed them? Had they left the exit and moved on without me?
My nervousness turned to panic.
I tried to stay calm and think of a solution. I had all the cell phones on me. We had made no emergency “if you get lost” plan. Did the park have a station for lost mommies?
I began asking everyone I could stop “Excuse me, have you seen a Dad with a man-bun, a Chinese girl, and a boy in an orange shirt?” At least my family stands out in the crowd.
I went back into the gift shop and asked an employee to help me look back through the pictures of the coaster riders. If I could find my family and see what time they exited maybe that would help. After looking through an hour of riders my unique and brightly colored family was nowhere to be seen.
Now my panic shifted. Had my daughter gotten scared to ride and gone back to look for me. Was she lost? Had someone gotten hurt?
As my mind raced and my heart pounded all I could think to do was “Hug a Tree”. I decided the gift shop would be my tree. Hopefully my three family members working together would find me.
A half an hour after I started looking for my family one of the cell phones rang. At the other end of a strange number came the voice of my husband, “Sweetie? Where are you?”
“I’m at the exit.” I whimpered.
“But we’re at the exit and we don’t see you. Where are you?”
For a split second I worried I had crossed over into Stranger Thing’s upside down or fell through some Marvel like portal into an alternate universe.
All I could do was read him the sign over the door. “Mako Exit.”
“Honey, we rode the Manta. Why are you at the Mako?”
“I don’t know.”
I barely got the words out as I began to cry.
Fear and confusion had so warped my perception I never even noticed I was at the wrong coaster.
“Don’t worry sweetie. Just stay there. We are coming to you.”
I wiped my tears and headed back to my bench. I wanted to be able to see my family from whatever direction they might come from. After a few minutes I saw them walking up.
At first I couldn’t stop waving at them. Then I began to run to meet them. When I reached them I just fell into my husbands arms and sobbed.
He patted my hair for a while and told me everything was okay. They had me now.
And all of a sudden I realized that was one of the biggest truths I knew.
I was in the arms of the man I love. My children were beside me. Everything would be okay.
I no longer cared what ride we rode when are where we ate or how much money we spent. As long as we were together that was all that mattered. Everything else was gravy.
We eventually found the “cup that cares” in the penguin shop. It turns out my perk was a Mr Potato head like penguin cup. My son had a ball designing the penguin and then putting all his parts in the wrong places. We filled him with Icee because penguins like it cold.
I don’t know if this guy was worth the trouble, but I have been keeping him on the counter to remind me of this truth, as long as I have my husband to hold me and my kiddos beside I can handle the rest of the chaos life brings. As long as I can hold onto that I am okay.
Perhaps you too have been feeling a bit lost or disoriented lately. Like you got on the wrong ride or ended up in the wrong place and don’t know how.
The world sometimes feels like we have fallen into the upside down or that our parts have gotten all mixed up. If you are feeling lost, I hope you find the one thing to hold onto that makes everything else okay, whatever that is for you.
And once you find this thing, I pray the rest of the chaos in the world is a little more bearable. That it brings you comfort and hope.