To be Full

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We drive down I-4 for close to an hour. The windshield wipers moan across the windshield as the atmosphere breathes it’s humidity down upon us. Close to midnight when the rest of the world is resting on a slow, Tuesday night, we are still driving. At home, it’s a cool 76 degrees. But here, it’s coming to the daily low at an unseasonably ‘cold’ 85 degrees. We come up to a rounded overpass that welcomes us to Orlando, but we’re still not there. On my right, Red Bug Lake, then Lake Mary, and finally, Sanford.

As we pull into this posh apartment complex, I can’t help but wonder how my dad would ever fit in here. There are towering palm trees with white sparkling Christmas lights, even though it’s the middle of summer. Four story buildings with flashy cars parked outside capture me into different fantasies as I imagine the people who live inside. We park the car and step out into the sauna of the night, grab our bags, and head for the door. Little brown lizards dart about and scatter into the woodchips as we walk closer. A cold blast greets us and draws us in from the heat as we enter my dad’s new apartment. The ten-foot ceilings grab my attention first, and then I notice the oil painting hanging on the walls that I will one day inherit. Everything else is simply decorated, but matching. A place I barely even know instantly becomes my safe haven.

Whenever I can’t handle life here in the busy, crowded, drama-filled town of suburban Chicago, I run away. I run away to my dad’s house, a place I’ve only known for four out of my seventeen years. The crystal cookie jar his parents gave him is always filled with bright, multi-colored M&M’s, and the couch embraces me as I curl up for a night of relaxation. At home, I would be worrying about who I would hang out with and where we would go, and ‘Is this going to get me in trouble with the cops?’ It’s nice to relax and turn my brain off. When I’m with my dad I can be the innocent little girl that deep down I really am.

He lives 20 minutes away from the Happiest Place on Earth. We enter the park and the sun beats down on us. Immediately I start to sweat, but I don’t mind because I don’t feel so bad anymore about the M&M’s I ate last night, I figure I’ll just burn it off in the heat. By the time we make it to the first ride, we are completely drenched from mixture of sweat and the sticky humidity. It’s the Peter Pan ride at the Magic Kingdom, the first ride I ever rode in Disney World when I was three. Even though it’s 15 years later, it still brings back those happy memories. A time when my parents were still happily married, a time when I didn’t know what war was and didn’t know of such a thing as school shootings. A time where I could have fun without mind-altering substances. Real fun and happiness. When life was still sweet and families were happy.

We decide to go walk around the hotels and see the gift shops, anything as long as it’s in air conditioning. Our first stop off the mystical monorail is the Contemporary Hotel. The first time I was here, I was whole. Since then, I have been damaged and used by ‘life experiences’ and relationships. But this place brings memories of my childhood flooding back as we enter and I see Chef Mickey’s. We come upon the Christmas store where I bought my first ornament. It was a vibrant yellow ‘U’ with Mickey holding a rainbow colored umbrella. My parents urged me to get the ‘A’ for Aubrey, but my three-year-old mind was drawn to the ‘U’. I was young and innocent and happy and ignorant, but life makes a young girl grow up. For now, these memories will fill me up as I search to find myself again.





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