The Most Beautiful Ruined Moment

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Dear Master Jedi,
       
       This is an open letter of deep appreciation to you. I hope that somehow it finds its way to your computer screen.

     You are an actor, and a damn funny one to boot. You’re really skilled at working with the unpredictably of kids and turning it into entertainment. I really hope that when you auditioned for and won this gig, that you’ve been as pleased with your job as your audiences have been with your performance. I also hope that this leads to bigger and better things, if that’s what you choose. You’re a supremely decent man and I’m ever in your debt for how you helped me out Tuesday, June 4th at the end of the last show of the day.

You see, during the months of planning for our Disneyworld trip, I found out about the Jedi Training Academy in Hollywood Studios and knew that my little boy would LOVE participating in it. He has been diagnosed with autism, and is typically oblivious to what goes on around him–except for Star Wars. I found an online clip of the Jedi Academy that some parent uploaded and showed him. He was so excited!

“I want to do that! I want to fight Darth Vader!”

He so very seldom really communicates with us that when he does, I move heaven and earth to keep that connection going. He wanted to fight Darth Vader, huh? Then by God, he would.

When we arrived at Hollywood Studios at the ribbon drop, I high-tailed it to sign up for the Jedi Training. There was already a huge line, and I was a little worried that all the spots would fill up before we reached the front of it. I was also concerned because the workers at the front were asking the KIDS questions to ascertain if they can follow instructions. I squatted down and had a little pep talk with my boy.

“Josiah, look at me, please. Look at me. Good. Listen to me. Are your ears on? Good. That lady is going to ask you how old you are. Do you know how old you are? Eight! That’s right! Now, you HAVE  talk to her, OK? I mean it, sweetie. When she talks to you, you talk back, or she won’t let you fight Darth Vader.” He never gave any sign of recognition, but I hoped that he understood. We’ve been working on appropriate conversation skills for months now, and I was counting on that therapy to kick in high gear for him in this moment.

It’s our turn! Here we go.

“Hello and good morning!” Said a bright and cheery Disney cast member to Josiah. (They are ALL bright and cheery.) “Are you ready to battle the Dark Side?”

“Yes.” Josiah mumbled.

Oh my God! He talked to her!

“Good! We need brave Jedis like you. How old are you?”

Josiah hesitated. She asked him again. I was about to answer for him when he said, “I eight.”

Yes!

“Eight. That’s great! Now, can you follow directions?”

Josiah blinked at her.

“If I told you to raise your hands, what would you…Good!”

Josiah had risen his hands up high before she finished her question.

Because of this miracle of a “conversation” we were able to secure two spots for both of our kids in the 8:00 show. (our daughter decided she wanted to be a Jedi too) Perfect! This is going to be something they’ll remember their entire life!

After signing up, we went about our sight-seeing of the park–riding Star Tours 3 times in the process. Before and after each ride or attraction, my son asked, “Am I going to fight Darth Vader now?”
“No.” I’d reply. “After supper. Have you eaten supper yet?”
“Oh. That’s right.” He’d sigh. Then we’d have the same conversation again in about twenty minutes.

The day went on, and a storm blew through. I was glad that our Jedi training was after the big storm. Yay for us, right?

Accordingly, after we ate supper at Hollywood and Vine, I took both of my Padawans by the hand, and led them to the Jedi training to suit up in their robes.

“Now? Is it time to fight Darth Vader now?” He anxiously asked.

“Almost, sweetie. Almost.”

They led the kids to the stage and there we saw you, Mr. Jedi-man. You were funny, entertaining, and great with the kids.

Then, Darth Vader made a wonderfully dramatic entrance!

Omg. Here we go!

I looked at Josiah’s face which was plastered with the biggest grin I’d ever seen.

My face was too.

The assisting Jedi sent kid after kid to center stage to battle the Sith Lord. My daughter, Esther was so cute! She stood so far away from him to “fight.” I laughed and enjoyed watching her.

This is so cute!

Five left…Now four. It began to sprinkle rain.

Three left. Now two. Now….

“We’re sorry ladies and gentlemen. Due to the rain, the Jedi academy is closed.”

Josiah stood there onstage; lightsaber at the ready. He turned and locked his eyes on mine. Then he screwed his face up and cried.

“No! Nooooo! I didn’t get to!”

He ran to me and I held him while he cried.

I’m sure most people would, on observing this, assume he is spoiled. I assure you he isn’t.

This is Autism. He was fixated on something, then didn’t get to do it. The vacation would be ruined for him–and we were only in day two of it. Nothing we do can ever get him back on track once he derails. I began to cry despite myself. This would be all he would remember of his Disney trip.

I locked eyes with you. Do you remember? I was crying like a blubbering dummy.

I motioned for you to come to me. You stood there and looked around for a second. I motioned again. You took a hesitant step my way…then another. We stood face to face in the pouring rain.

“He’s autistic.” I choked out. “This is all he’s talked about all day. Is there anything you can do?”

“Meet me around the side there.” You nobly said. Kudos to staying in character the entire time, by the way.

We made our way around to the side of the stage, amid a sea of parents, kids, and cheery cast members.

There you were, waiting all Jedi-like in an alcove. Waiting for Josiah.

You then made a “Grand presentation” to him and gave him Darth Vader’s lightsaber–autographed by the Dark Lord himself!

Say what!?

Josiah was in awe. You gave him the moon, Mr. Jedi Master. You fixed his day…his entire vacation! You got him back on track.

I couldn’t help but cry, and I’m crying now remembering your generosity of spirit for my little boy. You easily could have thrown your hands up when I motioned for you. You could have pointed to your character handler and shrugged a fake “I’m sorry.” You could have simply ignored me and turned your back.

But you didn’t.

You may not even remember this moment, it was so small for you. I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t fully explain how you…YOU, Jedi Master made a ruined moment beautiful. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

We spent the rest of the night jumping in puddles, riding rides, enjoying the nearly empty streets of Hollywood Studios, and watching Fantasmic.

Thank you, again. You will never know how you helped us out. To say that you made our vacation is not an exaggeration.

Most Sincerely and Appreciatively,
Sharon Kay Edwards

Wishing on a star–or a green light.

I snap the Ziplock bag full of jewelry and find an unoccupied spot in my suitcase between my bras and blouses. Could this suitcase BE any more stuffed? (you read that in Chandler Bing’s voice, didn’t you?)

I’ve got everything I could possibly need and backups of them all just in case. You never know, right? I’ve been checking off mental lists–planning for this once in a lifetime vacation for the past six months. We’re taking the kiddos to the place where dreams come true!

Not Vegas, people.

DISNEYWORLD!

I’ve researched online, ordered and studied books, perused restaurant menus, read attraction reviews, planned our daily itineraries, secured dining reservations, watched planning videos, read blogs devoted to Disneyworld, made autograph books and coloring books for the kids, and overall tried to think of everything.

I want this to be perfect. For months I’ve dreamed of my kids’ faces smiling–glowing in the light of the fireworks as we stand near Cinderella’s castle watching the magic spectacle. I’ve played and replayed in my mind a fantasy reel of my delighted daughter running into the arms of Princess Aurora. I’ve secretly smiled thinking about my little boy getting dressed as a pirate to play with the characters. In my head cinema, the vacation looks like an Instagram filtered perfect week.

We leave tomorrow, and as I’m packing my last minute essentials, I’m beginning to get a nauseating feeling in my stomach.
I’m nervous. I’m really nervous and I can’t help thinking about Jay Gatsby.

Stay with me here.

Everyone has been rereading Gatsby since the new movie this summer–which I’ve yet to see– and I’m no exception.

Reading Gatsby as an adult is an entirely different experience than reading it as a high school Literature student, but that’s another story.

In school, we learned how Gatsby was really about the American Dream–the constant and crippling longing for what ultimately is just out of our reach. Desiring what is here and yet not really here at all.

Gatsby spent years in a dreamy state over Daisy. He stood at the end of his pier looking toward that green light with his guts knotted in an anxious pull toward his love.

When they began meeting at his infamous parties; their eyes having silent conversations across the tops of their champagne flutes, I’m sure he felt he was finally going to attain what he had long sought after and painfully dreamed about.

But when they did embrace, it was hollow. How could this complicated love triangle ever measure up to years of fantasies about their love?

I’m glad Gatsby ends up dead.

Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

I recently took a personality profile where, among other qualities, it listed me as a “Dreamer.” I’m prone to get lost in lofty fantasies about life. I serve up airbrushed versions of conversations and situations before actually experiencing them.
I’m sparkling and witty in my head. My friends say the perfect thing that makes me feel valued and loved. Everyone at my party has the best night of their lives. My children look up to me with eyes full of love and say, “Thank you for this vacation. I love you, Mama.”

I’m terrified that our vacation, much like Gatsby’s complicated romance, will turn sour. We’ll end up a modern day Griswold tale or family version of The Hangover. The kids will fight, whine, or get sick. The hot as hell hubby and I will be ragged at the end of each itineraried touring day, and regret the trip altogether. We’ll have horrible weather, a flat tire, and our money stolen.

Ultimately, I’m scared of reality coming no where near the level of awesome that is my dreamworld.

I’m relying heavily on Disney magic to help with this condition of mine; this overly analytical fantasy land I can’t seem to shake.
After all, there’s a very famous Disney song that says, “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”

I’m gonna hold you to that Disney.

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