I'm just starting to feel like I can write again, here. We all know why — we all can't stop thinking about the whys and the hows and the my gods from the horrific school shooting in Connecticut. And I so desperately wanted to share the magical experience we had on our Disney cruise — the princesses! the characters! the joy! — but I didn't realize the real magic of that vacation until right now, as I'm continuing to process this whirlwind of emotions.
I spent seven days cut off from the world — no Facebook, Twitter, email; no worries or stresses. And the people? My god, the people on that ship. All smiles and friendliness and helpfulness — all the best parts of humanity.
Going into the experience, I worried it might be a bit exhausting and overwhelming, being alone with Noah. If we're being honest, "Disney" can be synonymous with long lines, overstimulation, and big bucks. I knew Noah would have fun, but me? Am I even a "cruise person"? I wasn't sure. I certainly didn't expect to be so relaxed and well taken care of — even without another adult to alleviate the parenting duties. I didn't expect everything to be so accessible and easy — for both of us. The food was endless (and pre-paid, which is the best way to eat food), the views were incomparable, the characters were always around, and the all-inclusive entertainment didn't stop. DID NOT STOP.
In fact, I somehow found even more love for Noah, down in the deepest part of my heart — the part ignited by watching him watch his first Broadway-style show, where the music vibrated through his little overjoyed body, and where bubbles floated out from the stage and snow softly fell on his outstretched arms and smiling face. By seeing him dance with Mickey Mouse as confetti fell from the sky, watching him bow to the very princesses he's always adored, and hearing him repeat the mantra of the Disney Magic: "Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust."
By exploring a foreign country with him, where we climbed ancient ruins and saw a monkey jumping through the trees. By experiencing the magic together, through his eyes, holding his hand.
There were countless times throughout the week when I would stop and gaze around — at the laughing children, the vast spans of water, the natural beauty — and realize how much good there is in the world.
How much there is to experience here, now. How grateful I was just to be here.
The very best parts of humanity.
And the first thing I did after stepping off that boat was check my email. Oh how I wish I didn't.
I then spent the bus ride to the airport reading news stories and looking at on-the-scene photos, as children — all 5, 6, 7 years old — sat around me, deliriously happy from the week-long escape on that ship. Children the same exact age span as those 20 children who were killed in Connecticut, so close to home. I cried.
The contrast was blatant and overwhelming. After breathing in such goodness and happiness for a week, it ended with a punch in the gut — forcing me to exhale the most evil, torturous parts of humanity. And I just wanted to climb back into the blind optimism and comforting constraints of that ship. I wanted confetti and fireworks. I wanted to forget that reality was so real, and hard, and scary.
A little boy named Noah was gunned down in his classroom as my Noah was parading around a Mickey-shaped pool, pretending to be a superhero, shooting webs at the bad guys.
"It's not nice to call strangers bad guys," I told him. "We're all good guys here, Noah."
How I wish that was true. How I wish children just needed pixie dust and spider webs to protect themselves.
But for a little while — for one week, to be exact — that was our reality. And it was very good reality.
Even as this terrible tragedy continues to unfold — even as I cry and grieve along with the rest of the country — I'm so grateful to have those moments of pure, beautiful happiness. They're the kind of memories we all need right now, more than ever.
Disclosure: I'm eternally grateful to Disney for sending us on the Disney Magic cruise. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We will, most certainly, be back.