We made a reservation for four at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, 1900 Park Fare. We’d been there the year prior for the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast and it was wonderful, so we came back, this time for Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner.
We were very excited to dine and meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother, and the three Stepsisters, one of them you! Our reservation was late and the dining room was running behind, so we were among the last to be seated for the evening.
Shortly after we were seated, a dad, mom, and young preschool-aged child arrived and sat at the table next to us. I glanced at their table and made some quick observations when I overheard the parents engaging with the wait staff: 1) The child had very short, blonde curly hair and was wearing a blue shirt. 2) The child had some notable facial pigments or breakouts. 3) The parents were talking to the wait staff about their child’s food allergies.
As dinner progressed, Cinderella came to our table for a visit, as did the Evil Stepmother and Prince Charming. Next came the Stepsisters, one by one. You were the one in pink. ALL three Stepsisters were in full character, but you were really playing it up! When you came to our table, you embodied the Stepsister character completely. Note your “smile” for the picture with my children, and you were even crabby and feisty as you interacted with them at the table! Since we were among the last in the dining room, we were the recipients of some extra special treatment – you and two other characters engaged in dialogue with our children at our table, completely in character! It was definitely an intimate and “magical” Disney experience.
After you engaged with our children, you proceeded to the table next to us where the mom, dad and young child were seated. Up until this time, I had thought the child was a boy, but as you approached their table and I looked closer, I realized the child was a girl. She had put on a crown and was wearing a blue Cinderella t-shirt.
The little girl LOVED you and was clearly intrigued by your character. What caught my attention was that she kept giving you hugs, and she wouldn’t stop. It was as if this little girl was in desperate need of hugs, hugs, and more hugs. They weren’t just quick one-stop hugs you’d give any Disney character. They were long embraces, embraces that signaled I need your presence and comfort right now, Stepsister. I need more of that, Stepsister. You obliged and hugged her sweetly, as many times as she needed.
After a while, you were called away from the little girl’s table, as there were still a few other families who had not met you yet. We continued to eat our meal, as did the little girl and her parents next to us.
You and and the other characters wrapped up your time with the other families in the dining room, and by then, the room was REALLY clearing.
Then, I looked up and realized you were on your way to visit the little girl at the table next to us – again.
While you were still Stepsister, I could tell the little girl had captured your heart and there was something about the way you approached that signaled to me you had stepped out of character a bit. The little girl, of course, welcomed you with a huge smile and open arms, ready for more HUGS. You, of course, obliged.
You lingered at their table. And it was beautiful. The little girl I once thought was a boy, who had allergies and notable breakouts or pigments on her face, was being specially noted, cared for, and loved. You could have remained in full Stepsister character, been completely rude and passed right by after a first brief meeting. But no, you turned your interaction with this little girl into an art form, adapting and crafting your response so that child’s unique needs were met.
It was the spring of 2011. I had been feeling a call to write on and off since the spring of 2003. And it was another full year beyond our family’s encounter with you that I finally decided to start a blog.
But I want you to know – I’m certain I was supposed to meet you in that dining room that particular day, at that particular time. I’m certain I was supposed to see you interact with that little girl. I’m certain God knew I would be moved by your response to her. And I’m certain He wanted to use you and that little girl to call my attention to stories that needed to be told.
This story, your story, was one of a few that led me to believe that God had given me eyes to see stories unfold, stories that might otherwise go untold.
Today, I’m telling your story. A woman who gave it all – to a little girl who needed it all. One night, in a Disney dining room.
It’s not rocket science and it’s not mind-blowing headline news, but it’s precious, it’s meaningful, it’s a story that should be told.
So thank you – for your hugs, your character, your warmth and sincerity for a little girl, and for your inspiration,
*If you’d like to read more from my #31Days Letters to the Unthanked series, click here for the landing page where all the letters are listed and linked!