Only a few hours after checking into our hotel, I didn’t think I would be able to make it the entire week with those people. My sisters had started bickering again, and my parents’ moods dropped tremendously when they had to break up the issue. Spending time with my family at home was one thing, because we had school, work, and activities to break up our interactions. But living with them in one room for an entire week seemed like it might be too much.
However, as soon as we left the hotel and began the first outing of our magical vacation, all conflict, stress, and worry were blown away by the warm Florida breeze. From then on, we were a normal, loving family. We stayed like that for the rest of the trip, and somehow came out the other end stronger. After being forced to spend 24 hours a day together for an entire week, something clicked and we were all able to have a stress-free vacation.
I’ve looked through the pictures of that trip so many times that I could probably describe a few of them off the top of my head. One taken during our first day in Disney World consists of a large, bearded worker at the Hollywood Tower Hotel creepily staring at my mom, who’s trying to lean out of the frame, away from the ghost employee. We were waiting for the elevator to take us on the tour of the mysterious hotel, and the worker kept us interested with his deep voice and eerie topics of conversation. Another photo from a few days later holds all of my sisters and I surrounding the baboon from The Lion King, whose name never fails to escape me. They’re all facing the left side of the frame with their arms up, but I’m the only one with my body angled to the right. At the time, I had no idea that I looked like the odd one out, but to this day it still bothers me that no one told me to turn around. Another picture that stands out in my mind is one taken on our first day visiting Universal Studios. The main focus is the four girls standing in front of a moving Velociraptor. Made of metal, internal wires, and some kind of rubbery painted “skin,” the dinosaur is reaching its neck out with its large jaw hanging open, ready to take a bite out of Gwen’s head. She doesn’t seem to notice, because she continues to smile at the Universal worker who is taking our picture. I, however, see the animal moving in for the kill out of the corner of my eye and let my jaw open in excited “fear.” Although we know the dinosaur is an animatronic, the joy of encountering a "real" raptor is still clear from our faces.
I can’t quite remember how Gwen ended up being the one to stand directly in front of the raptor, but it’s no surprise to me now. She’s always been the fearless one of our bunch, never too worried or anxious about things, and willing to take risks. She was the only one of the four of us that day who didn’t wear an outfit relating to Universal Studios. I was in my homemade “I love Harry Potter” shirt, Bronwyn sported some ancient Hogwarts overalls, and Graisa wore a creepy t-shirt with Draco Malfoy’s face staring back at you, but Gwen had on her favorite everyday outfit—athletic shorts, a grey Baldwinsville Bees t-shirt, and tall, white sports socks with sneakers. She was the one who was most concerned about looking “cool” during the trip. Bronwyn liked looking cute, and I just wanted to be comfortable. Graisa went back and forth with her outfit choices, some days wanting to look nice and other days not caring how she appeared at all. That was just her personality; sometimes she was hard to predict and interpret. Bronwyn was pretty predictable during this trip; she always wanted to get her picture taken with the characters on her iPod as well as on our family camera so she could post them on Instagram later. Although she and Gwen usually would find something at least once a day to fight about, during our time in Disney and Universal they didn’t seem to have the energy to do so. They were too focused on bonding over their shared love for all of the things the parks had to offer to find something to disagree about. That went for the rest of us as well. As soon as we stepped into the parks, we all had one thing in common—we loved every single aspect of our environment. We always had something to talk about and connect with. Maybe that’s why we all grew so close during that trip.
These captured moments of a time when my entire family was together having fun will always be etched into my brain. I’ll never forget that shift in our family atmosphere, going from our normal routine of the youngest two bickering, my parents growing upset with them, and these events putting everyone else in a bad mood, to the family who just wants to enjoy every possible second of their time together in the happiest place on earth. Anytime I look back on these memories and pictures, I am transported back in time, and it makes me wish more than anything to be there again. I wish that I was back in my senior year of high school, skipping that week of classes and musical rehearsals. I wish that I still lived at home so we were able to go on that trip. Because I live at college now, it’ll be a lot harder to recreate vacations like that.
This past week, my family went back to Florida to visit my grandparents in Sarasota. I was not invited this time. Being at college is almost like I now have a completely different life than the rest of my family. I’m going to classes while my sisters are relaxing on the beach during their winter break. The same thing will happen in a month or so, when I’m home for my spring break and they’re still in school. Over the summer I’ll be working, and before I know it I’ll be headed back down south to New Paltz for the start of my sophomore year. Our lives are starting to carry on down different paths.
Sometimes I wish that my life could always be like those pictures from our trip to Disney World and Universal Studios. My parents, my sisters, and I were the closest we’ve ever been during that long and exciting week, and I would give anything to go back to that. I suddenly feel as if I’m growing up all at once, my childhood accidentally left behind on Space Mountain.