It’s no longer the weekend, but I’ll tell one more story in honor of Barry who is enjoying the week at Disney World. Our entire extended family went to Disney in December of 2000. It was a wonderful trip but the memory that hangs with me is about Tommy disappearing for hours in the Animal Kingdom. We were all barely inside the park and it was my first time in this particular area of the Magic Kingdom so I confess I was doing more looking around than looking after my children. Apparently Doug and my parents were doing the same thing. We were walking happily until we realized Tommy was missing. What went through my mind may upset other parents but I’ll say it anyway. If it had been any of the other children I would have jumped to child abduction hysterics and been in the park office demanding to see the exit videotapes. Because it was Tommy I looked around and saw a fence around the alligator and other wild animals area. I wondered if Tommy felt some urge to touch an alligator. I looked another direction and wondered if he’d crawled under equipment to see how it worked. I was hysterical that he had felt like he just had to do something horribly dangerous.
Doug quickly alerted a park employee and my parents took over entertaining and watching the other two children. I ran around the park like a chicken with its’ head cut off. I looked under racks of shirts and stuck my head in employee only areas. The employees stood back and let me have my ridiculous freak-out. When I was out of breath enough to pause and survey the area, I noticed something remarkable. At the entrance to every store, ride, restaurant and restroom was a Disney employee standing guard and reporting in on a walkie-talkie that their area had been checked. I accepted that my efforts were pointless and returned to my parents, who were anchored where we last saw Tommy.
The family was accompanied by a Disney employee who was explaining where each area was as it was reported on. She talked calm and slow and kept putting her hand on my shoulder. Finally someone reported in that he’d been spotted on a park video camera. We all raced to the dinosaur ride. Tommy was standing at the end of the ride with a big grin on his face. Apparently he had looked at a park map, decided what he wanted to ride and done it! I was a basket case and demanded that we leave. The park employee insisted that we ride one ride together. This woman was determined that we would have a happy memory of our experiences at Disney. We were escorted to the front of the line and all boarded the dinosaur ride with our personal park employee. After the ride the employee handed us the group picture that the park takes during a scary moment in the ride. Tommy had known a dinosaur head would pop out and was hiding his head. The employee held up the picture of everyone but Tommy (even though he sat right beside us) and said “Look, even when he’s with you, he’s not with you.” Truer words were never spoken. We went back to the hotel and I never did see the Animal Kingdom area of the park. I’m still not sure if I want to go back.