Today marks 16 years since my Budge and I went on that fateful Hummer ride up the mountain at Camp Awanita. We’ve been together SIXTEEN years! That’s only four years less than half my life!
We married the NEXT August, so God willing, this August will be our 15th anniversary. We almost didn’t make it past the honeymoon, however, because by the time we reached our destination, I was certain I had married a lunatic.
To understand the humor, irony, etc of this story, you need to know that Budge and her family were very well traveled. They took vacations all over the country. Most importantly, they went to Walt Disney World at LEAST once a year from the time she could walk until she was in the ninth grade. She and her dad went together the year her mom passed then they skipped a year, then she and I went there on our honeymoon. Walt Disney World is my beloved’s most happy place. I cannot stress enough how much she loves the place. It is VERY germane to the story.
I, on the other hand, have only left the state of South Carolina a bare handful of times. We just didn’t travel much due to lack of money, lack of time, or both. Then, and pretty much now still, I hadn’t been many places. I had been to Disney World with the National Junior Honor Society from GCO when I was in the seventh grade, but by 1996, that’d been a while.
So, we get married, clean the goop off the car, go to Mama’s, pack some last minute stuff, eat supper, and spend the night in the Greenville Hilton. The next day, we got up, ate with Dana’s dad, brother, and my dear niece Kayla. Then we headed for Orlando and “The Happiest Place on Earth.” I drove the whole way. This was before I learned not to CARE what other people think about a man having his wife drive him around. It was also before I learned that Budge is a MUCH better driver than I am. She has a lead foot and needs a 3 painted on the side of any car she drives, but she is a fantastic driver.
But I digress.
We got to Orlando / Kissimmee after dark and went to the Holiday Inn Express to check in. This was when we discovered that Kissimmee was home to about 1,500 HIEs and ours was the absolute most remote from all humanity. We drove another hour to find it, wrestled the bags up the pee-stained elevator to our room . . . and crashed.
The next day, at the butt-crack of dawn, Budge gets me up. It was time to go to Disney World! We ate breakfast, piled in the car, and joined the rest of the United Nations in driving to the Magic Kingdom. Now please realize that back then, I was MUCH more intense than I am now. I was in the middle of the biggest crowd of traffic since Moses led the Exodus AND I had no idea where I was going. I was piano-wire tight.
By following another “Just Married” SUV, I managed to find the entrance to the park. Still, the traffic was stacked up on either side of me. I was sweating in the August Florida heat and was beginning to feel like a complete failure as a husband only three days into a marriage when it happened. My wife LOST HER FREAKING MIND.
I’m listening to her talk and am intently concentrating on the bumper of the balding guy in his midlife crisis Corvette when my sweet, quiet, and meek little wife ERUPTS beside me with a high pitched elephantine bellow of “I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS, I SEE PURPLE SIGNS!!!!”
I snapped my head up so fast I felt the vertebrae pop, banged my head on the ceiling, bit my jaw, and whipped around incredulously to find Budge bouncing up and down in her seat pointing to a purple sign with Mickey Mouse’s hands on top of it. I thought the girl had gone around the bend.
It was then that she chose to point out “THE PURPLE SIGNS” evenly spaced along the road. Each one revealed a bit more of the famous rodent while letting all we lemmings know how far it was to the parking lot. The final sign showed Mickey’s smiling face, ears, and clapping hands and announced “You’re Here!” The look on my new wife’s face was one of complete rapture. We pulled in to Sleepy lot A, row 6, I think, and made our way to the shuttle.
As I took her little hand (she has THE daintiest hands), I realized then — after I had a moment to recover — that I had not, in fact, married a lunatic. I had married a precious young woman with a child-like, but not childish, spirit who could enjoy three days of purple signs as much as some would have enjoyed a three week cruise. We had a wonderful honeymoon in “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it saddens me to no end that we’ve never gotten to go back. Hope springs eternal however and I hope we’ll get to return to the land of purple signs soon.
Until then, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean for this newly old man!