Doing Harry Potter

I haven’t been running in years…

3 years to be exact, but tonight, I felt that familiar wind whipping through my hair, the sweat glistening off my body, the ache in the back of my calves. Never before tonight have I run in flats instead of sneakers, never before, have I gone for a jog in a bathing suit and a cover up, but tonight was extremely different. Tonight was kinda crazy.

The family and I have been on vacation at Universal Studios Orlando. Once again, traveling with children has proved to be a daunting experience. The age difference between my sons is still too vast to have a harmonious time at an amusement park. They all want different things from different places. The 3-year-old isn’t old enough for the large roller coasters, the 9-year-old is too old for the baby attractions, and Hubby and I are torn between taking care of a newborn and the wants of the other kids. But we all agree that Harry Potter is amazing. Unfortunately, so does everyone else in the entire universe.

For the last 2 days we have been meandering about the Universal Studios version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, problem is, that with this brood, we don’t have the ability to wait on long lines. That being said, we’ve been unable to hit up the new ride, “Escape from Gringotts”. I’m not gonna lie, as a super Harry Potter geek, I was disappointed.

After getting caught in a full-fledged thunderstorm at the park today (yes, we got soaking wet and it was awful) we ended up at the amazing hotel pool. When the skies cleared and the sun showed itself it was a beautiful afternoon. The kids swam, went on water slides and had a blast.

We are leaving tomorrow morning and had just finished our poolside dinner at about 8PM when I said to Hubby, “I can’t believe we didn’t get to ride that new Harry Potter ride.” Hubby looked at our sleeping baby, the older kids swimming in the pool with their new British friends and said, “The park doesn’t close for another hour… Go! Have fun. Tell us all about it.”

I was stunned. “I can’t leave you guys. This is a family vacation. Come on… I’m not even dressed to go in the park…”

Then he pulled out all the stops, “Not dressed to go in the park? You’re covered, better than most chicks we’ve seen today. Stop making excuses and go. I’ll be pissed if you don’t.”

That’s when I kissed the love of my life on the lips, thanked him for being the coolest Daddy and spouse ever, and made a run for it…

The woodsy path to the park is lovely and serene… even more so at night, and even better alone… I started into a brisk jog as soon as I exited the hotel gate. I had 49 minutes until the park closed, but it felt glorious to be alone and on a super “Harry Potter” adventure.

I ran, I ran so far away… I must have looked like the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls with my long, brown, pool-soaked hair, but I didn’t care. I was gonna “Do Harry Potter”, and not in the dirty way, because ewww… I first discovered him when he was in 6th grade and that image is not sexually appealing.

I booked-it through the park. I didn’t know I could run that fast in flats, or without the promise of booze upon completion, or without being chased. I passed the food vendors, the angry families who stayed longer than their children’s good behavior, the love-birds posing for pictures… I was tired and sweaty as I approached the entrance to the ride… adrenaline pumping through my veins…. YES, I MADE IT! I’M GONNA DO HARRY POTTER!

Everything was wrong as I made it to the vestibule. There were no other patrons… only me. In hindsight that was not a good sign. As I fished my ticket out of the cup of my swimsuit a stern woman said, “I’m sorry, the ride is closed for the night.” I must have looked dumbfounded and confused, standing there stuttering… “But, But, But…”

But nothing. But closed. As I walked away in a daze I heard another patron complaining to a guard and he explained that the ride had been already closed for 90 minutes because they had hit maximum capacity. Mission aborted.

I walked slowly back to the hotel, trying to find the words to explain to my family that I hadn’t accomplished my goal. When I arrived at the room they were eagerly waiting to hear all about the ride. My heart sunk.

“Mom, how was it? Was it awesome? Was Harry there? Ron? Hermione?”

{Ugh, this sucks} Well, it was already closed, but it’s cool, it was nice to see the park at night. 

Hubby was pissed off for me, “Closed? WHAT? We’ll go early tomorrow, before we head home!”

As usual, my oldest, my Boy Wonder, had the pearl of wisdom… “Well, at least you tried, right? Trying and failing is better than not trying at all.”

Hearing that statement from my own child was better than any ride I can have at any amusement park. Knowing he understands “the ride” that is life, is worth the ticket price.

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The Books

 

This morning the baby and I had to go to our local Barnes and Noble (something I don’t do nearly often enough) to get a birthday gift for my nephew. As I walked into the large building I was transported back to my childhood summers. Spent with a weekly trip to the local library because I loved to read and my parents wanted to instill the love of reading in us. Each summer they threw down the gauntlet and issued us a challenge… read 10 books over the summer and write a report on each and they would reward us with a trip to Great Adventure.

In today’s society this might not seem like a huge deal. Summer vacations are the norm now, which can sometimes cheapen the actual monstrosity that planning and executing a vacation is to parents. But for me, in my childhood, summer was spent at the beach or camp and a vacation (especially to an amusement park) was a major deal. I’m thinking that along with the Minecraft book he wants, maybe I’ll also get my little brother’s son his first Harry Potter book for his birthday. A reading-right-of-passage for sure.

As I’m standing in this bookstore I could feel that feeling…  exactly the same way as when I was a kid. All of the stories that live inside these pages, all of them at my fingertips, the choices… it’s one of the most exciting adventures you could go on. The written word is indeed powerful and storytelling is an art. The fact that someone can paint a picture with their words and allow you to step into the world they created is the ultimate fantasy. I think we all need a bit of fantasy in our lives. It helps to keep up with all the mundane bullshit. We all have things we “have” to do… a small escape can be the difference between enjoying the ride or dreading the journey.

I love technology. I love the practicality it brings to my already cluttered life. But I will never love an e-reader the way I love holding an actual book in my hands. Just feeling the pages in my fingers and the weight of its spine… No Nook could ever replace an actual book to me.

This makes me think about the summer I was 12 years old and my Mother introduced me to the Thorn Birds. I was a confused tween who felt like every adult (especially my parents) had it in for me. Reading that book, knowing how much my Mother had enjoyed it too, felt like I had been indoctrinated into a secret society. One where we had something in common other than our DNA. It was a marvelous feeling that makes me always appreciate when my Mother points me in the direction of what she thinks is a good read. I must hand it to her, she has never given me a bad book. Wurhering Heights, Anne of Green Gables, Beach Music. Mama’s got skills that rival the New York Times Bestseller list.

While all the promise of the bookstore is laying right in front of me along with the joy when I realize I actually have time to browse, I am brought back to the real world from my amazing trip down memory lane by a 19-year-old kid with dyed, jet black hair, skinny jeans and boots on in the middle of Florida summer…

“Hello… {while shaking his head}”

Um, yeah Hi. {I smile, what does this kid want?}

“Could you move your stroller? {Then mutters under his breath} Didn’t you hear me the first time?”

Oh, I’m sorry, I must have been somewhere else…

As I move my stroller out of his way he reaches over to grab a skull and crossbones patterned case for his Nook and walks off saying to his friend… “I swear, these Moms act like they own the place. Let’s go get a latte.”

Back to reality.

I doubt he knows where to find the Harry Potter.