By Melissa McLaughlin
I will always remember our one and only childhood trip to Florida. After the 25+ hour drive to sunny Florida all the way from the hills of Pennsylvania, we were overjoyed to finally reach our destination! We pulled into the Walt Disney World campground, our home away from home. My dad carefully parked our pop-up camper in the wooded campsite, the trees acting as pleasant shelter from the searing Florida sun. As a kid, I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than a combination of camping and Disney World. Campfires and s’mores at night, Mickey Mouse and amusement rides during the day! Every kid’s paradise!
Because the Disney World campground was located off park grounds, we took a train each day from the campground to the park. Even that little train ride seemed an exotic adventure to my then ten year old heart. Once in the Disney World amusement park, the rides provided every kind of thrill! We boated through the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride as we listened to rough scruffy pirates calling, laughing and singing in their tough pirate voices. “It’s a Small World” let us meander gently through a miniature world of wonder. The excitement of “Space Mountain” delighted us as we zoomed through the dark.
One ride in particular, however, stands out above the rest, the “Tea Cups”! As we stood watching the park goers before us, it appeared as though they whirled and twirled in their Tea Cups with absolute bliss and abandon, dizzy, wild and free! We watched with envy imagining ourselves soon to be circling magically around and around. After what felt like a three hour wait, it was finally our turn. We boarded the ride, giddy with joy and sat expectantly in our very own Tea Cup, waiting to be amazed. The ride started slowly, gears turning, people smiling.
However, after several minutes as the ride moved along, to our dismay we realized the only way to be joyfully dizzy and free like all the riders before us, was to turn the wheel in the center of the Tea Cup. My older brother and I gripped the wheel and turned with all our might. We were deeply disappointed at the paltry results. Our grim faces reflected our heartfelt discouragement after the long wait for this let-down of a ride.
But wait! Just then Dad exclaimed he would show us how this was done. He put his strong and able hands to the task, spinning the wheel of our Tea Cup like a hamster in high gear. “Faster, faster,” we squealed! So fast did we spin that the world was completely out of focus. Our vision a blur of colors. We laughed and screamed with unrestrained exuberance at our very own Tea Cup whirling like a tornado in the hands of our dad! A dad with superhero strength! Spinning on and on and on! What joy! What laughter! What elation!
that dreaded moment when the ride came to a stop and the reality of that much anticipated dizziness took a new turn. We discovered we could hardly walk as we exited the Tea Cup. Staggering to a nearby bench like sailors on dry land after months at sea, we caught our breath and plopped down with thump, waiting and waiting until eventually the world stopped spinning. As my brother and I sat recuperating, we looked and noticed something unexpected. Dad’s face was ashen, his sparkly smile was gone and beads of sweat were pouring down his body. He was drenched. He looked terrible. Suddenly the prized dizziness we had sought earlier lost its shine. It was some time before we could move on.
Looking back, we can laugh at that crazy ride, made even crazier by our own desire to circle round and round faster still. We were truly “sick with joy” that day!
Another thing I remember from our adventure, or misadventure, is how deep a father’s love runs. Sparing not his own comfort for the love of his child. It echoes of the love of another Father. You taught us well, Dad. A Tea Cup lesson fully learned.
Happy birthday! I love you!
*Tea Cup photograph courtesy of Pixabay.
If you enjoyed this little memoir, you might enjoy another story from my childhood: Reflections on Fathers, Spiders, Superheroes and Jesus By Melissa McLaughlin