July 20, 2021


What a birthday these two had in March, 1975!  Three weeks after Patrick turned four and just days before Heather turned seven, we three made our first trip to Disney World.  We’d just gone through an unbelievably difficult year.  We’d celebrated Patrick’s third birthday at Mays Park just a few weeks after Tom had moved out, and since then we had been adjusting to all the changes in our life together.  

I came up with a plan for the three of us to spend a week at Disney World.  I talked to friends who had been there and got some tips.  We would go on Amtrak and I made hotel reservations at a Hilton in Kissimmee. For the night trip to Florida, I reserved a sleeping compartment on the train.  Our friend Jim Buckley drove us to the train which left Columbia at about 10 p.m.  It was shockingly small, with bunk beds.  Heather was sleeping on the upper bunk and Patrick and I below.  By the time we got settled into bed, a terrific thunderstorm began, which terrified Patrick.  We were all somewhat claustrophobic. Patrick cried for hours.

When we got to the Orlando train station the next morning, I found a young man who said he had a bus to drop passengers off at the area hotels for $20.  It sounded like a great deal!  The bus turned out to be a school bus (probably freed up because of spring break), but it was packed and we made the 20-mile trek to our hotel without incident.  On our way, we noticed long lines of cars on the right.  Our driver said they were all waiting to get into Disney World!  We soon learned that there were record-breaking crowds there that week, the biggest spring break attendance they’d ever had.  

Fortunately, our hotel had shuttle buses (which Patrick loudly referred to as “shittle” buses) that dropped us off inside the park.  Otherwise, we would never have been able to get in.

The lines for rides were unbelievably long but we rode those that were age appropriate for Heather and Patrick.  My proudest achievement was successfully navigating the monorail with two little ones!

This picture makes me laugh!  I have no idea why Patrick’s mouth is wide open.  Hopefully he was laughing and not crying.  We enjoyed all the sculpted shrubbery animals like the rhinoceros in the picture.  Perhaps Heather’s continued fascination with rhinos started right here!

When it was time to leave, I went to the hotel office to ask how I could contact my friendly school bus shuttle to the Orlando train station.  They laughed at me and said he was probably just an entrepreneur illegally using a school bus to make some money during spring break.  My only option was to get an expensive cab.  At least we got a deal when we arrived!

The train ride home was much happier!  No sleeping compartment this time.  Sitting up was much more agreeable all the way around.  Eeyore stayed on the pages of Heather’s book—no crying on the way home. Mission accomplished.

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