The summer of 2005 was just like any summer. It was hot, humid, and the excitement about the annual family trip lingered in the air. The details of these trips were usually kept secret until a month or so before we actually, but this time the trip was too great to keep a secret.
We were going to Disney World.
I was 12 years old then, and standing outside waiting for my uncle to come and pick me up with an over packed suitcase was the best feeling in the world. I didn’t care that it was the middle of July and 90 degrees at 7:30 in the morning, nor did I care that we had a 9 hour trip ahead of us before we stopped for the night. I was ecstatic. Little did I know that this trip would become the most important one I’ve ever taken.
We arrived that night at L’HÃ´tel James, a fancy fake name we coined to describe my Aunt Kathy’s house which has provided my family with room and board when we’re passing through Virginia for at least 7 years. My dad and stepmom came over for supper that night. We laughed and took photographs as was mandatory when any of our family got together. At the time, none of us knew that those photos would be some of the last ones to ever be taken of my stepmom. She died that August.
From my Aunt Kathy’s house, we set off on the last leg of our trip: a 15 hour trip through sweltering southern states filled with old plantations and, once we hit Georgia, the smell of peaches and thunderstorms. We finally pulled into the house we rented for the week and a half stay in Florida, something I definitely recommend considering how much more comfortable it was than living in a hotel room (plus it’s cheaper!). We quickly discovered the in ground pool and hot tub that sat on the covered back patio and the whirl pool tub in the master bedroom. For my three female cousins and I, this was heaven on earth.
My grandfather, grandmother, Uncle Ed, and Auntie Mare were the chaperones as they always were. My grandmother had had a stroke in 2001, but that hadn’t stopped her from going on any vacations with us after that. Once we were in the parks, it was mostly free reign. I’m not much for roller coasters or anything that drops you, be it down a hill or free fall, so most of the rides were out for me. That’s not to say I didn’t get on my fair share of them. The tea cups were my all time favorite. If anyone could get off them and walk straight, well, they’d be my hero.
Epcot was my favorite park by far. It’s split up into different areas, and each area represents a different country. You could buy real kimonos in the Japanese pavilion, travel through the history of man in the Spaceship Earth pavilion (which looks like a giant golf ball on the outside, how cool?), or (now, this one’s for the adults) try a selection of brews in the Germany pavilion.
When the trip was over, we began the trek home, stopping once again at L’HÃ´tel James to spend the night. This was the last vacation we took as a family. My grandmother passed away two years later, just a few weeks after I sat with her and went through the photos from this vacation. My favorite memory? Her smile as she got a hug from Mickey Mouse himself.
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