When I was four years old, my family went on a summer trip to visit my Aunt Mary, my namesake, who I’ve always adored. This was the first vacation I remember, and the first time I ever flew in a plane.
I distinctly remember landing at night, slowing descending over the bright lights of the seemingly endless city, wondering who was still awake in the city that never sleeps — Orlando, Florida. Right, that’s obviously not the “city that never sleeps,” but as a four-year-old who had never seen the world from above, it felt like the biggest city in the world.
My family did all of the usual touristy stuff – saw every park and show at Disney World, swam with dolphins (not at SeaWorld — at a research-based facility endorsed by my cetacean-loving aunt!!), went on a glass-bottom boat in the Keys, and even snorkeled. Well, those of us who were old enough and brave enough to snorkel — so my mom and my sister snorkeled.
While I don’t remember every detail of the trip, my favorite part (I’m told) was looking at all the creatures under the water and taking photos of every single thing that moved. I apparently loved disposable cameras. One moment that I do remember (which I guess my mom didn’t capture in the A+ scrapbook that I sourced these photos from) was snapping a picture of the captain of the boat feeding a seagull a puffy Cheeto from his MOUTH. I was both horrified and mesmerized that a human would allow a disgusting bird to get that close to his face.
But one part I vividly remember is Disney World. That’s one of those things you don’t forget. I remember stocking up on autograph books at the Dollar Tree, anxious to get meet my favorite Disney characters, the entire cast of The Little Mermaid, mostly because that was my older sister’s favorite movie. Monkey see, monkey do I guess?
While the rest of my family wanted to see the different shows, explore Animal Kingdom and ride all the big grown-up rides, I had my eyes set on one thing: the Dumbo ride. I had never been on a ride before, so the Dumbo ride seemed like the perfect choice. Edgy but safe, tall but not too tall.
My mom and I anxiously waited in line for over an hour, seeing children and parents get on and off the ride with delight, while the rest of my family waited to see the two of us soaring through the air on a flying elephant. I was obviously nervous, but seeing so many children, some younger than me, squeal with excitement while they got off the ride assured me that I had to enjoy it, right? Wrong. Needless to say, I sobbed the WHOLE time. My mom says the ride only lasted about 20 seconds. I say it lasted a lifetime.
But the only recovery I needed from the trauma of Dumbo’s Flying Elephants was some company time with my family, specifically my Aunt Mary, so we went to the Rainforest Cafe to end the day. The reason I’ve always admired my aunt is because she doesn’t care what people think of her. She speaks her mind (to an appropriate extent…most of the time) and is probably one of the funniest women I know. She also has always had very memorable burps, which I think are just another form of her self-expression.
However, I quickly recovered and returned home to North Carolina. The vacation was so good that I came back to preschool just reeling with excitement, eager to share a story. On one of my first days back, my preschool teacher let out the smallest little belch. While other students giggled, some said the obligatory and proper “excuse you,” I, in the sweetest little toddler voice, said “Hey, you burp like my Aunt Mary after a couple of beers!”
Out of all of my lovely, wholesome family memories that were made on vacation, my toddler brain chose to highlight my aunt’s drinking habits! I’ve never had much of a filter, but I didn’t think it was that bad.
I guess I just admired my Aunt Mary so much that I wanted everyone to know how great her burps were, and I just couldn’t keep in my excitement.