Sunday, August 10, 2014

Flying on Three Hours Sleep

Six weeks ago, the Weinsteins were preparing to part ways.  For my 17-year old daughter Melissa, a trip to West Virginia for a two week leadership camp....for my husband Bob and me, a trip across the pond for a 10-day vacation to London to celebrate our 20th anniversary!

While my nerves frayed at the thought of Melissa flying without her parents, I took some comfort in knowing she'd be travelling with a number of fellow teens from her youth group.  Still, I wanted to stay by her side through the oftentimes harrowing task of getting through security and finding the correct gate.

Although I didn't have a ticket, I had heard that airlines were willing to give a gate pass to parents of minor children.  Sure enough, the kind representative at US Air did not hesitate when I asked if I could escort my daughter through security and to the gate.  Melissa boarded the plane without incident, and proceeded to have the experience of a lifetime at camp!

Four weeks later, my baby would fly "sans parents" once again, this time to visit her grandparents and cousins in North Carolina.  Ever the bargain hunter, Bob had discovered incredibly inexpensive fares out of a tiny, two terminal airport in Trenton, NJ.

The only downside?  We had to awaken by 4 am so that we could get in the car by 4:30 am so that we could arrive in Trenton at 5:30 am...enough time to get through security and safely onto the plane for the 6:30 am departure!

Of course the Weinstein family snuggled under the covers at a reasonable hour to get a good night's sleep in preparation for our middle of the night journey to Trenton, right?

Wrong!

Instead, we spent the night rockin' out with Billy Joel, who dared to schedule his Philadelphia tour date the night before Melissa left for North Carolina.

So, when the alarm so rudely signaled our wake up call after a mere three hours sleep, three bleary-eyed people, delirious with exhaustion, made our way outside into the early morning darkness and silently embarked on our journey to Trenton.

At the airport, I again waited in line to get a gate pass to escort my daughter through security, while Bob decided to find a parking spot and get some shut eye in the car.

Surprisingly, we were not the only ones who had learned about Trenton's cheap fares, translating into a 20 minute wait behind dozens of moms, dads, toddlers, strollers, car seats, wheelchairs, golf bags, diaper bags, carry on bags, etc.  Finally, when my turn came, I approached the lady behind the counter and I requested the gate pass to accompany my daughter to the terminal.

"How old is she?" came the employee's grumpy response to my request.

"She just turned 17," I replied.

"Well technically, she's not a minor," growled the lady.

Thinking that anyone under 18 was still considered a minor, I kept my contradiction to myself, and calmly explained that I had accompanied Melissa to the gate in Philadelphia, and there wasn't a problem.

"Do you want her to go with you," the lady asked Melissa, as if I were some kind of parasite.

What a ridiculous question!  My baby, my cherub, the love of my love would absolutely want me to be with her!  How could this crazy airport lady even think that my offspring would not want her mommy to be with her!

"Of course she wants me to be with her," I said with a definite air of indignation.

"I need her to answer me," snarled the airport lady.  Then looking Melissa in the eye, she asked again, "Do you want her to go with you?"

Ok, no problem, I thought.  I know that Melissa wants me to be with her.  How could she not want me to be with her.

I looked at my child who was staring at the airport lady with a somewhat glazed expression born out of lack of sleep.  Then, she responded by shrugging her shoulders and uttering the following words: "I don't care."

Yes.  That's right.  The child who I carried for nine months...............

Shrugged. Her. Shoulders.

Yes. That's right. The child who I raised from a six pound infant said....................

I. Don't. Care.

Thinking at that moment that, at the very least, I would not be allowed to escort her through security, and at the very worst, the airline, convinced I was trying to kidnap this teenager, would send someone to arrest me.

Somehow, through continued haggling, the angry airline lady finally allowed me to have a pass so that I could accompany my kid through security.....even though Melissa obviously did not care if I came with her or not. (sob.)

We made it to the gate without incident, only to learn that the plane had been delayed by two hours.  As we settled in for the long wait on the uncomfortable airport chairs, I offered to get Melissa a snack, and in return she gave me a grateful smile.  

I knew that her "I Don't Care" response had come from lack of sleep, not lack of love.  And I also knew that, as the minutes slowly ticked by in the wee morning hours in the tiny Trenton airport, that Melissa was glad to have me by her side.  

Melissa celebrating her 17th birthday on the first day of her two-week leadership camp!


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Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Tale of the Pink Shorts

Following surgery to correct problems with my "plumbing" last April, my doctor gave me the typical words of wisdom doctors are required to give after each operation they perform.  His dutiful speech included advice on coping with pain, getting plenty of rest, and taking proper care of my wounds.

What he neglected to tell me, and what no doctors undoubtedly ever tell their patients, is that they might as well take their favorite pair of jeans and throw them into the far reaches of their closet, for it will be a loooooong time until the tummy swelling will allow those jeans to fit comfortably again.

As for me, my energy slowly returned, and my body steadily transitioned to some semblance of normalcy, yet I still refrained from even attempting to look at my favorite jeans, let alone try them on.  I opted instead for comfortable (albeit unfashionable) stretchy pants.

The downside of the stretchy pants? My 17-year old daughter Melissa would not let me get out of the car when I dropped her off for a bus trip with her youth group, lest I embarrass her because I had dared to don my well-worn, 1990's pink sweats.

Sadly, as the days grew longer and the thermometer continued its upward trend towards summer, the pink sweats weren't going to cut it for much longer.  I dreaded the necessity of shopping for comfy clothes to get me through 'till September.

Reluctantly, I made the journey to a local department store, located about a half and hour from home. After carrying what seemed like a year's worth of summer clothes into the dressing room, I felt more and more discouraged as each outfit shined a glaring spotlight onto all of my perceived flaws. Finally, as I started to think I might need to spend July and August clad in my default clothing of choice, pajamas, I struck gold with a pair of blue shorts!

Yes, a simple pair of blue shorts.

Stylish, comfortable, stretchy blue shorts that DID NOT make me look like Attila the Hun.

Sold!

With enthusiasm, I asked a helpful saleslady if the same style of shorts came in other colors.

"Yes!" came her reply.  "They are also available in pink."

Hooray!  The shorts fit so well I would gladly consider any color - purple with green polka dots  - I didn't care!

"But we don't have the pink shorts in stock," shared the saleslady, abruptly ending my short-lived excitement.

"We can order them online for you," she continued, getting my hopes up again.  "There is a shipping charge if we deliver to your home, but no charge if they are shipped to the store.  We'll call you when they are delivered and you can come pick them up."

It sounded too good to be true.

A week later the call came in.  My pink shorts had arrived!

My husband Bob and I made our way back to the department store, and down to their basement customer service counter to pick up my package.

I gave the salesman my information, and he disappeared in the back to retrieve my pink shorts......or so I thought.

After comparing the label on the package with the receipt in my hand, the salesman felt convinced that our transaction was complete.  I, on the other hand, wanted to make sure.

I opened the package, only to discover....... a purple shirt.

"This is not what I ordered," I said.

"Yes, it is," came his reply.  "It has your name on it, and the bar code matches your receipt."

"That may be the case, but I ordered pink shorts," I insisted.

"Well, I don't know what to tell you," he said.

"Look, look at my receipt. Look at the item number, go online and look!" I demanded.

He looked at the store's website, which gave me the evidence I needed to prove that I had, indeed, ordered pink shorts, not a purple shirt.

"You know, I normally work in the men's department," he said.  "I'm just filling in for the guy who went on break.  Whenever I fill in, there is some kind of problem."

His honesty did little to heighten my confidence.

"Can I reorder the shorts?"

"Yes, but first you have to return the purple shirt."

"But I didn't order the purple shirt," I reminded him, trying to stay calm.

"I know, but the computer thinks you ordered the purple shirt, so the only way I can reorder the pink shorts is to have you return the purple shirt, give you a refund, then order the pink shorts."

"Ok, but can I have the pink shorts delivered to my home so that I don't have to come back here again?" I asked.

"You can, but it will cost $8 for shipping."

GRRRRRRRRR

"WHY SHOULD I BE CHARGED FOR  SHIPPING WHEN IT WAS YOUR STORE THAT MADE THE MISTAKE???"

"Ok, let me talk to the manager, I'm sure we'll be able to waive the shipping charge."

Indeed, the manager, upon learning of the mishap, approved the free shipping to my home, and Bob and I left the store minus one pair of comfy pink shorts.

Fast forward one week.

I came home from work to find a package waiting for me, faithfully delivered by the department store.  I tore it open....only to find.........BLUE SHORTS!

Yes, that's right.  Instead of pink shorts, they sent me another pair of blue shorts.

The same style blue shorts that I had already purchased two weeks prior.

What's more, they charged me for shipping!

DANGER!  DANGER!  CLEAR THE FLOOR! SHE'S GOING TO BLOW!

In less than five minutes, I had a pleasant department store customer service representative on the other end of the phone.  Knowing that it was not his fault that his employer apparently hired kindergarten students to fulfill their shipping orders, I struggled to remain calm, and pleasant, and explain the situation.

"Ok ma'am, I can understand why you are upset, and I sincerely apologize," he said.  "All you need to do is return the blue shorts that were shipped to you and then we'll send you the pink shorts."

AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Let's just say that by the end of the conversation, Mr. Customer Service Rep had agreed to send me my pink shorts via overnight delivery, waive the shipping charge, and allow me to keep the second pair of blue shorts, free of charge.

He assured me that my pink shorts would arrive the very next day!

Fast forward 24 hours.

No pink shorts.

48 hours.

No pink shorts.

72 hours.

No pink shorts.

96 hours.  I came home from work to find a package waiting for me, faithfully delivered by the department store.  I opened the package ever so slowly, afraid of what I might find.  If anything other than a pair of pink shorts had been stuffed inside this box, I surely would have needed an ambulance.

Carefully, I pulled away at the seal and, with trepidation, peeked inside, only to discover....
a pair of pink shorts.  The store finally got it right!

Now I just need to find a shirt to match my new pink shorts....

I am now the proud owner of a pair of pink shorts and two identical pairs of blue shorts,
 thanks to department store ineptitude.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Surprise in the Notebook

For years, my husband Bob and I have dreamed of taking a trip to London.

Yes, London!

Where the Fab Four found their fame.
Where 2,000 year old buildings co-exist with modern skyscrapers.
Where royal weddings in all their regalia are watched world-wide.
Where you'll find culture, history, entertainment, and shopping galore!

Yes, London!

But would we ever find the right time to go?

As much as I wanted to experience our first overseas vacation, something stood in the way....my overprotective "mommy" fears.  I did not want to leave my daughter Melissa for such a long time, knowing I'd be so far away if anything should happen.  Logically, I knew Melissa would be safe under the loving roof of her big sister Jessica's home.  In fact, she'd be treated like a queen. But still, those overprotective "mommy" fears kept my feet firmly grounded on United States soil.

That is, until Melissa joined the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO).

As part of this international organization for teens that fosters community service, leadership skills, friendship, and Jewish heritage, Melissa had the opportunity to spend two weeks this summer at a leadership camp on a college campus in West Virginia.

Hmmmm, if Melissa was tucked away at a leadership camp, perhaps, just perhaps, I could loosen the reins on my overprotective "mommy" fears and take a dream vacation with my hubby to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  I knew she'd be safe, and that at least a dozen family members and friends would gladly be "on call"  to handle an unlikely emergency while we were away.

What's more, my "baby" would be 17. I had to allow myself to let go, if for only two week's time.

As Bob and I sat in the airport, I pulled out my journal, disguised as a standard yellow notebook. By the end of my travels, I hoped to fill these pages with every nuance of our journey, starting with the jumbled emotions that played tug of war with my heart as we waited to board the plane that would whisk us across the pond.

Nervous. Scared. Excited. Worried.

I hadn't even left the country, and already I missed my daughter.

Pen in hand, I opened my journal, only to discover that somebody had already filled up the first two pages. Thinking I had taken one of Melissa's school notebooks by mistake, I started reading.

I had not taken the wrong notebook. My "baby" had written her parents a letter of goodbye, full of hope, and joy, and wisdom, and love.  With her permission, I share her heart-felt words with you now.

Dear Mom and Dad,
     By the time you read this, you will probably be on a plane to England and I will be at camp meeting new people. But knowing my mother, you will probably read this before you even leave the house. Anyway, I'm excited for you guys to finally experience a different country and bask in all of its historic (boring) glory.
     No, but seriously I'm not gonna lie - I'm a little jealous. I know you have so many fun, amazing things planned and so many adventures to go on. Just remember, don't be afraid to try new things! Mom, don't avoid eating certain foods just because you think it will taste yucky. You won't know unless you try.
     And Dad, don't be afraid to step out of the tour group for a second if you see something that isn't being explained. The most beautiful and interesting things in the world could be the thing that the tour guide passes.
     And to both of you - live in the moment. Take in every single thing you see, notice how you are feeling at that moment, and think of it as a blessing.  Not many people get the chance to do what you're doing, so appreciate every minute you have in this magical place and don't waste it constantly looking at your itinerary or watch. Go with the flow and don't be upset if things aren't going as planned. Some of the best moments are made when you don't plan them.
     As for me, I'm going to try to take my own advice at camp. Even though I've been reading blogs and watching videos about what you do there, I'm still nervous for the whole experience. But I know it will be a great one that will allow me to grow as a leader and a person.  It will be the longest I've been away from you guys I think but I will text every night before I go to bed and hopefully find a good time to call before it's bedtime for you guys. Stupid time change...
     I'll miss you guys so much. I'm also going to keep a journal (like mother like daughter) so you can both read about my experiences when we get home. And I can't wait to read about your's!
     Just remember, live in the moment and don't spend too much time writing in this.  Do take lots of pictures though. The goofiest ones you can think of.
     I love you both so much. Don't miss me too much! Enjoy your time together because 20 years is definitely worth celebrating.  Dad, try not to annoy mommy too much!
     Love,
       Melissa
PS - Bring me back a cute British boy!

Melissa's letter was the most wonderful surprise! We may have been worlds away, but her words brought me closer to her charming spirit than she'll ever know.

Reading those words, I knew there would be no need to worry. My beautiful daughter, so full of of wisdom beyond her years, would be just fine.

And so would I.


Bob and me in front of the famous Tower Bridge in London! Our vacation was better than I could have imagined, because I spent it with my best friend and love of my life!  Happy 20 anniversary Bob!!

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Melissa's Surprise Party!

Birthdays are usually met with much fanfare in my family.  To be more specific - birthdays for my daughter Melissa are usually met with much fanfare.

With each 12 month cycle, I threw out all of the stops to celebrate yet another milestone in my young daughter's life.  A family party when she reached her first birthday, a clown to entertain the toddlers at age 2, a Chuck E. Cheese party at age 3, a swim party, a bowling party, a mini golf party and so on.

As she approached the teen years, the milestones became less monumental.  Movies with a few friends...a day at the beach, until this year, her 17th birthday, when Melissa thought we had planned no celebration AT ALL.

I understand why she held onto that misguided assumption.  On the day of her 17th birthday, July 1, she will board a plane en-route to a two week leadership camp sponsored by B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, (BBYO), an international organization for teens that focuses on community service, friendship, leadership, and Jewish heritage.

Since her departure date coincidentally fell on her birthday, she did not expect a big deal. In fact, she did not expect anything at all.  And because of that lack of expectation, she spent the past week somewhat bummed, convinced that nobody would even remember her special day.

Unbeknownst to my baby girl, the covert operation "Surprise Melissa" had been in full swing for three week's time.  In partnership with some of the best teenagers I have ever known, we devised a top secret plan to have Melissa spend the day at her friend Erica's house.  My husband Bob and I nonchalantly told her we were going to a nice dinner to celebrate her birthday. Ho Hum...couldn't get more boring than that!

When my offspring finally walked out the door this afternoon, I sprung into action.  Her friends came over, grabbed the decorations that had been safely tucked away from inquisitive eyes in the back of my closet, and turned my house into a party zone.

When Erica texted her secret code, "The eagle is flying", 10 teenagers stood at the ready, anxiously awaiting Melissa's reaction to a party she had no role in planning.

When Melissa opened the door, 10 teenagers shouted SURPRISE!

Mission accomplished!

Melissa, you are the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me.  On July 1, 1997 when  I held you in my arms for that first magical time, I fell in love.....and that love grows ever deeper every time that I wake up and look at your beautiful face.

You have evolved into an incredible young lady, a gifted musician and a natural born leader who has an oh so compassionate heart.  Happy 17th birthday my dear, sweet daughter.

YOU DESERVE IT!

Celebrating a successful surprise party are (from l to r) Devon, Maggie, John, Erica, Tabitha, Gabby, Nick, Melissa, Sarah, John, Micaela, and Hayden (kneeling)


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Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting Melissa into the Car

It has become an annual tradition for my small family to pile into the car each year on Father's Day weekend for the three hour drive to Washington, D.C. to visit my step-daughter Jessica and her husband Brian.

It is also an annual tradition for my small family to pay homage to the numerous rest stops along the way, and this trip proved no different. After tending to "our business", we walked slowly back to the car, only to find the passenger side door blocked by the occupants of the mini van in the parking space next to our's.

My 16-year old daughter Melissa and I watched patiently as the mom climbed into the back of the mini van, buckled two toddlers into their respective car seats, then made sure they had snacks, drinks, and toys to last throughout their journey.  Finally, the harried yet apologetic mom took her rightful place in the driver's seat and went on her merry way.

As we returned to our rightful places in the car and went on our merry way, my thoughts turned to the scene we had just witnessed, and to the 10,735,254 times I had performed the same car seat routine with my daughter.

"In many ways, it's so much easier now than when Melissa was a baby," I said, sharing my melancholy thoughts with my husband Bob.  "But in many other ways it's even harder now that she's older."

"What do you mean?" asked Melissa, a hint of hurt feelings in her casual tone.

I thought long and hard before answering, wanting to choose my words wisely, lest I let her think that being her mommy has been difficult.

I thought about then.

I thought about now.

I thought about that eventful day in July, 1997, when we brought Melissa home for the very first time.  Bob gently lifted our bundle of joy from my protective arms and placed her into the car seat, which we had haphazardly attempted to correctly install.

"How do you hook up this $%@# thing?" asked Bob in exasperation.

"Let me try," I said, climbing into the back with him.

After several minutes we were no closer to safely securing our child, and absolutely convinced that that state would bestow the title of "unfit parents" upon us even before we got our infant home.



Thankfully, some wonderfully kind hospital employees came to the rescue, and with our newborn in tow, we headed onto the highway of life as Melissa's mommy and daddy.

The following summer, more exasperation greeted my husband as he tried to install a bigger contraption to tote our ever-changing cherub.

As we witnessed the evolution from toddler to preschooler, her non-stop growth resulted in yet another sophisticated car seat that required a master's in engineering to set up.

Then came the elementary school years, and with it an oh so easy to use booster seat.  Finally, my "baby" had reached the milestone of sitting in the back seat with no supporting apparatus at all, except of course the seat belt.  And before long my preteen sat in the front with me, rejoicing in her new-found freedom to control the radio!

In the not so distant future, my daughter, the proud recipient of an official, state-issued learner's permit, will make the transition from  passenger seat to her rightful place behind the wheel, and go on her merry way.

Away from me.

Away from my loving arms.

With that thought I realized why being a mommy to Melissa is so much harder today.

For today, tomorrow, and the years to come, I will no longer be able to shield her from harm by the simple act of strapping her in.

I looked at my beautiful, self-sufficient teen who'll turn 17 in two week's time.  My daughter is blessed with an inner beauty that radiates through her dazzling smile.  She has a strong moral compass and is a natural born leader. What's more, her compassionate heart coupled with an innate thirst for perfection leaves me bursting with pride.

But will that be enough for her to battle the unknown obstacles that will most surely create unexpected road blocks on her journey called life? Will it be enough to keep her happy, to keep her smiling, to keep her safe?

I just don't know.

But what I do know is, no matter where life takes her, no matter how far away, I will always be here to strap her back in.

My "baby" has grown from needing a car seat, to taking her rightful place in the driver's seat!


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Sunday, June 1, 2014

When Will I Feel Like Me Again?

A trip to the local mall is a fairly routine occurrence for my family, and last week's visit proved no different.  After landing a rare, perfect parking spot, my husband Bob and I strolled hand in hand the to the entrance.

Our first stop, a visit to the Men's section of one of the four department stores that anchor the mall.  Bob, whose stocky frame has withered from a size "XXL" to a welcoming "Medium", needed a new wardrobe.  I helped him pick out some designer duds, and gave him a reassuring thumbs up as he modeled shirt after shirt.  However, by the time we stood at the sales desk to pay for his polos, I felt my body starting to give out.  Indeed, the familiar exhaustion that has plagued my bones had begun to rear its ugly head.

Against my better judgement, I ignored the warning signs to stop and sit down, opting instead to go on a quest to dress for success by searching for professional business attire in the Misses section, a short distance away. While Bob found an uncomfortable bench to wait, I set my sights on the selection of the bright summer styles that beckoned from beyond the perfume, handbags, shoes, and lingerie.

Would I be able to reach my destination?

The answer? A resounding NO.

Bob's expression of surprise greeted me as I plopped onto the bench beside him.

"Why are you back so soon?" he asked.  "I thought you were going to try on dresses."

"I got too tired," I responded, ashamed of my lack of energy.  "Do you mind if we go home?'

"Of course not," he replied, his kind smile showering me with love as we strolled, hand in hand, out of the mall.

The reason for my frustrating fatigue?  Major surgery to correct problems with my "plumbing", which involved a partial hysterectomy and pelvic floor prolapse repair.

What I have discovered since leaving the hospital a mere seven weeks ago is that nobody - not the doctor, not the nurses - nobody tells you what to expect.

Nobody tells you that your favorite jeans will gather dust in the far reaches of your closet, thanks to the swelling and bloating that make them impossible to put on.

Nobody tells you that you'll need clothes with extreme elasticity to avoid putting pressure on your tender tummy.

Nobody tells you that you'll need a nap every few hours, or that a trip to the mall may as well be a climb up Mt. Everest.

 Nobody tells you that when you steal a quick glance in the mirror, a stranger with a strange body will be staring back.

Nobody tells you that as your body heals, you'll just feel, well....different.

Fortunately, a strong, steady presence in my life has kept self-pity at bay.  My sweet, selfless, oh so wonderful Bob!  Not a day has passed since my discharge that my husband doesn't tell me, assure me, and remind me that I am beautiful.

I must learn to believe him.

I must learn to accept who I am....a woman who has now entered the last phase of her 40's, armed with the unfortunate knowledge that a week's worth of dieting will no longer result in the loss of five pounds, as it did during her 20's.  In fact, these days, a week's worth of dieting has the strange potential to add more weight, thanks to swelling and bloating.

Sigh.

So, while I wistfully stare of photos of a 25-year old me, I will no longer do so with the longing to look like I looked back then.  I will heed the predictable, yet beneficial advice echoed by experts by the thousands - eat healthy and get plenty of exercise.

After all, I want to enjoy every moment with my sweet, caring husband, and give him the pleasure of telling me I'm beautiful every day, for 50 more birthdays to come!

My wonderful husband Bob and me.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

You Can't Go to Disney Without Me!

Three months prior to the two hour flight that would transport my family from the dreary cold of a New Jersey winter to the sunny skies of Florida, my husband Bob spent an entire morning on hold - his cell phone in one ear and our home phone in the other - waiting patiently for someone to pick up at least one of the two calls he had placed.

His goal?  To make a reservation for "Breakfast with the Princesses", the planned highlight of my 4-year old daughter Melissa's first trip to the Walt "Happiest Place on Earth" Disney World.

His efforts were worth the wait. The much anticipated breakfast inside Cinderella's Castle lived up to its reputation. My star-struck daughter gazed in awe as Belle, Mary Poppins, Cinderella, and Ariel treated her like a princess in her own right, showering her with hugs and kisses.

We have been back to Disney countless times since that first trip in February of 2002.  The heart-warming memories of each visit meticulously preserved thanks to pages and pages of dusty old photo albums.

Last week, while looking for a non-strenuous activity to pass the time during recovery from major surgery, something drew me to those memories. I gazed at the photo albums as if visiting an old friend, each picture taking me to a place where princesses came to life and a little girl's imagination kept reality at bay.

With every photo, my daughter grew a wee bit taller, her features giving way from the baby-faced cherub who marveled at meeting princesses to a beautiful young lady who, despite the chance of ruining her teen reputation, still chose to pose with Mary Poppins.

Today, at 16, even though the allure of the "celebrity" princesses is no longer a draw for Melissa, she still loves all things Disney.  Sure, we've traveled to other vacation destinations.  Canada's Niagara Falls, Tennessee's Great Smokey Mountains, and the beloved beaches of our own Jersey shore, a mere hour's drive, door to door. Yet no other location pulls us back like the promise of "The Happiest Place on Earth."  For it is in this place that I have watched my daughter, in spite of her evolution from toddler to teen, shed her inhibitions and embrace the magic.



It is here that she'll choose to hold her daddy's hand in favor of the iPhone texts that connect her to the world beyond our vacation.  It is here, miles from her peers, that I become her "default" best friend.  It is here that I relish our time together as a family, putting aside thoughts of years to come when Melissa might no longer choose to do Disney with mom and dad.

But I still had time, didn't I? Days and months and years of time, before that day would arrive.

Or did I?

She has been saving for her next trip to "The Happiest Place on Earth".  But this time it will be her classmates, not mom and dad, who will share the magic as they take Disney by storm during their senior class trip in two years' time.

Will there be the chance for one last visit as a family, one last opportunity to capture the magic with mom and dad before my daughter relinquishes the comfort of her poster-filled bedroom in favor of a college dorm?

Before she begins her journey towards independence?

Before she leaves her childhood behind?

Before I am forced to say goodbye?

Melissa at 5, and again at 15. Will there be time for one last trip to Disney with mom and dad before she goes off to college?



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