“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” – Winnie the Pooh
“Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But, the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13
Some may recall a certain, shall we say, “fever” that had fallen upon the USA in the fall of 2016. A certain blonde career politician (let’s call her HRC, to maintain anonymity and to avoid re-stirring the pot) was competing against a real estate mogul (let’s call him DT) for the highest office in our nation. The usual issues had been raised: economics, foreign policy, immigration laws, social and humanitarian rights. The two representatives ultimately took predictable party stances. Had their positions on the traditional issues been the only considerations in the election season, the populate may have heaved a collective ho-hum sigh as they yawningly cast their ballots. Outside the political issues, however, the ugly side of politics had stirred the pot of cray-cray to an all time high (or was it a low?), as news outlets spent countless hours none of us will ever get back analyzing HRC’s fainting spells and email slight of hand with the actual size of DT’s hands and his bank account.
I have to admit, though we had worked with Make-A-Wish to schedule Mercy’s trip around her medical treatments and Dan’s leftover vacation time, the fact that her Wish Trip landed directly on election week came as a much-anticipated magical perk for me as the vacation approached. Dan and I performed our civic duty, cast our ballots weeks early, and for me that was the end of my participation in the debates. I wanted mental rest from the lunacy. In my mind, either of these candidates winning was going to be a disappointment for our nation. So as we headed into our travel dates, I cut off my access to social media accounts and news apps. As it turned out, even if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had a spare moment to spend on HRC or DT, as the memories I was making with my family were far more important and time-consuming.
Sorry, not sorry.
And thus it was, bubbled and cocooned inside of this politically ignorant bliss, that I entered the Magic Kingdom on the Wednesday following election Tuesday. Having no idea who had won the election and having no desire for that knowledge to impact my family day, in that Wish Trip moment I just did not care who the next reigning president would be. Did. Not. Care. I figured I’d have four plus years to learn and grapple with the election results. Today, it could wait. So, I mentally danced to the Christmas music being pumped through the speakers overhead as we stepped off the monorail and headed to the main entrance.
Inside the main gates, a fully decked out Christmas tree towered in the center of the town square. Lines were already long for photos in front of the tree. Heading into her Wish Week, Mercy had had four main hopes for her Disney experience: A princess makeover at the BBB Boutique, meeting Rapunzel & Tinker Bell, and seeing fireworks over Cinderella’s castle as Tinker Bell flew home from one of the top-most turrets. So, our first objective was Town Square Theatre to meet one blonde, feisty, creative and imaginative little pixie.
For months prior to her trip, Mercy had watched YouTube videos of other children meeting Tink. I thought maybe that would have lessened the magic for her, as Tink’s attending Cast Member shrunk us down to fairy size using magical pixie dust then escorted us into a fairy chamber of now over-sized “lost things” (buttons, crayons, flowers, and teacups now two and three times the size of our bodies). It didn’t! Mercy was all jumps and neck-craning, like fans lined up alongside the red carpet in Hollywood, to catch a glimpse of the fairy she loved best. Finally, it was Mercy’s turn to meet her, and she walked forward arms outstretched, face beaming!
When your child has epilepsy, there are many many times when what you plan, what you’ve hoped for, what you intend to do on any certain day is lost to seizures, their side effects or the side effects of medicine. Standing there inside the pixie hollow, watching Mercy tell Tinker Bell about a fairy house she’d made for her to visit, I remembered one point, months ago, where Dan and I had sat together and tried to verbally catalog all of the times we’d made plans which epilepsy destroyed, and we’d literally lost count. It’s an experience that’s fairly ubiquitous within the uncontrolled epilepsy community. It’s something people think they understand because their child got sick with a virus, once, and missed out on a party, or was hospitalized for a week which resulted in a family vacation being cancelled. While those experiences stink, it is not the same as learning to live with the constant expectation that every plan on your calendar is always tentative. Always. That’s why, watching our daughter chat it up with Tink on our first morning in the Magic Kingdom meant more to us than meeting any president elect could have ever meant that day. A plan for a child with uncontrolled epilepsy to meet her favorite Disney pal: flitterifically flawless.
That moment could have been the capstone on the day, as far as I was concerned, and it was only our first stop. After family photos in front of the Christmas tree and Cinderella’s castle, we veered toward Fantasyland and met Alice from Wonderland. In her slightly-snooty, beautifully accented way, when Mercy announced that she was going to dress up as Alice for Halloween next year (spoiler alert, friends) Alice questioned, “And, why dear, would you not have dressed up as me this year?!” On the adjacent ride, teacups twirled us until we thought we could spin no more, and Mercy’s seizures were not increased by the vertigo this time.
It was at about that time that we had begun to realize that the Magic Kingdom was becoming rather un-enchantingly jammed. I had been feeling calm about the normal walking distance between family members and keeping track of my kids in the crowd up until about this time, but now things were getting sticky. I carried Pierson to and from his stroller, not willing to risk losing a hand-hold attachment in the wall-to-wall sea of people. We could barely move without brushing against total strangers. Unlike in the other parks we’d visited, Cast Members here – though still pleasant – were thinly veiling mounting levels of stress trying to manage the expanding crowds. They were too distracted from their extra work to always notice our Genie Pass.
As we waited to meet Pooh Bear we chatted with a Cast Member. “Often, we don’t know what causes larger versus smaller crowds”, she responded in answer to our question as to why the park was extra busy. “But, today, the general consensus is that people are visiting the Magic Kingdom because of the election results.”
What? I looked at Dan. “Do you know who won?”
I was looking for a yes or a no, but the answer just came out, “Trump.”
Just then, Pooh Bear and Tigger arrived and we were sent in to see them before the crowd of regular families who had been waiting over an hour in the other line. Pooh and Tigger offered hugs, and the photographer began shooting. Pierson was just as tentative as he’d been with all the other characters, until Tigger convinced Mercy to bounce with him. Bouncing is what Tiggers do best! That brought instant smiles to Pierson’s face! Even though PJ still refused to leave my arms, Pooh Bear leaned in close and started tickling his neck. These are two of my very favorite memories of our day there. (Check out how PJ won’t even turn to look at the camera because he’s too busy staring over my shoulder at Pooh in our family picture below.)
It was at this moment that a mother towards the front of the regular line got extremely annoyed and shouted out at us about how long she’d been waiting. She was tired, hot, and frustrated at our instant access and extended play time with the characters. I got it. I knew what it was like to wrangle and entertain children in long lines. I felt badly. She likely had no idea why we were being granted special privileges. If it had been the end of our day and Mercy had needed her wheelchair maybe our access would have made more sense to her, because this mom probably didn’t know what our lanyards meant. I wished I could explain that my children were getting extra time having fun because my daughter had lost so many fun times in life to seizing and we were celebrating her dreams working out today. I wished I could tell this mother that while she may return to Disney with her children or even her grandchildren one day, for a Wish Child, this single moment may be the ONLY time in their lives they get to experience this entertainment. This. One. Moment. This beautiful moment.
Would knowing why have changed this mom’s reaction toward us? Would knowing why DT won over HRC have changed electorate reactions? Would knowing why my daughter has to fight epilepsy, when others don’t, affect how we live? Maybe. But, what if instead of knowing better, believing better is what’s most important? What if growing faith that God works in and through all circumstances, hoping in future grace, and extending love even to those we don’t agree with is more important and could enable us to hurdle even the things we don’t know, can’t control, or understand in life.
Because they’re awesome like that, the Disney characters and Cast Members ignored the angry mother and continued signing our children’s autograph books and giving them goodbye hugs. I don’t know how that mom’s meet and greet went when she got to meet the characters, but I know my heart was full as we left with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger waving wildly at my children like they were the famous ones. Small children. Small moments. Our moments. Made and cherished in our hearts.
As we walked on to the next attraction, swarms of disgruntled electorate looking to find some escape at the “happiest place on earth” from Trump’s impending reign thronging us on either side, I understood their frustration over things not going the way they’d dreamed. I also knew that they wouldn’t ultimately find the solace that they sought here in this Magic Kingdom. Like the mother waiting in an extra long line with her kids to see Pooh, how we perceive our losses versus others’ gains and how we decide to fight as a result of them impacts our contentment more than the things we can’t control. Oh how I knew this, as mother to a child battling daily seizures and, therefore, a calendar and life full of hopes and dreams we can’t control. I knew that while unhappy voters might have moments of fun here, being in a temporary Magical Kingdom wouldn’t truly make them happy any more than it would make me forget my daughter’s losses.
It turns out that “Magic Kingdoms” are just a salve we use to temporarily ease life pains. It turns out that the only lasting balms for what hurts in life are faith, hope, and love. Small and trite sounding, perhaps, in the face of huge political forces and battling life-threatening illnesses. But, it turns out that the small things, the intangible things, the beautiful, quietly cherished things….
Like faith in God, hope through our difficulties – be they physical or political- and love for our Savior and fellow human beings…
These are the things that take up the most space in a heart.
Jesus and Winnie the Pooh for President/Vice-President. 2020.