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Mom, Penelope, Captain Hook and Me

Three generations of Hellers went to Disney World this past weekend. My mom, my daughter and me. It was my idea to celebrate her two-year birthday with great fanfare and excitement that didn’t include me picking out party favors at Target.

What a great memory for my mom and me… and some subconscious memories for Penelope. I am convinced her clearest memory will be of the bus from the hotel to the park. Passing buses now elicit shouts of glee formerly reserved for ticker tape parades.

Really, though, besides the immediate happiness of Penelope, the whole trip was all about the pictures.

My family is all about taking pictures.

If you don’t have a picture of it, it didn’t happen.

So, at Disney, while half our brains were in the moment, the other half were on the lookout for how to permanently capture the moment we were in. We did the mandatory snaps in front of the castle. On Mainstreet. In front of the swan topiary. Next to the dancers on the horse-drawn trolley. We did the pictures in front of the large mouse head made of flowers. Surrounded by dozens of plush mice.

But with dismay and regret, I report we missed the chance to capture my daughter and her favorite character, Snow White. A real bummer as Snow White is a real person in a pretty dress and not a costumed character. My daughter is terrified of the costumed characters. But, just as we got in line a Disney worker cheerfully informed us the line was closed and Snow White would not return for another hour. Even princesses are not immune from potty breaks. Kind of makes you wonder just how Sleeping Beauty coped…

We wanted a character shot.

We decided to look for more princesses. The line for pictures with Ariel, the Little Mermaid, was 40 minutes too long for us. Where the other Princesses were we didn’t know.

An opportunity!

The line for Scrooge McDuck was short. We decided to wait. It would be about 20 minutes and surely by then Penelope would be used to the idea of a giant duck. She likes ducks. Besides, she could see all the other kids weren’t getting eaten or whatever she imagined a bearded, bespectacled duck with sideburns might do. Our patience was rewarded. Our first character shots! My daughter straining to escape my arms as Scrooge stood a good three feet away from us. Her terrified face is turned towards him, her mouth is frozen somewhere in the phrase “Don’t like”. I imagine one day I’ll have time to photoshop us closer and erase the tears.

One character picture could have been enough but once you have one, you want more especially is the first is unsuitable for the album. So who did we see next, Captain Hook and Smee. The villains. The characters that put the P next to the G. The seamy underbelly of the otherwise unbearably burden free life of beautiful, optimistic Princesses with the power to get animals to clean the house for them and flying boys who don’t have to grow up and can still keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. More than that, the line to have a picture with them was really, really short.

My little princess, my little character, Penelope, hated them at first sight which was 200 yards away. She also hated the 5 year-old boy dressed like Hook in a velvet coat, hat, boots and plastic hook for a hand. That mom went all out in the shops. But I did it right this time. I held Penelope and stepped in front of the characters, keeping her from seeing just how close they were.

Snap. She looks confused but not upset. You take what you can get. A least this wouldn’t be the picture she was going to take to her therapist as evidence of her miserable childhood.

But something good happened. I think she hated the pirates so much now everything else seemed OK in comparison. She was actually happy to see Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. We got a picture with them and one with the monkey from The Lion King. (And frankly, I found him a lot more frightening then the pirates.) She’s not particularly loving them, but she is looking sort of serene. Perhaps she’s just given up, and resigned herself to her fate at the paws of a giant animal, but whatever. We got some good pictures.

We finished up the day with pictures from 8 trips on Small World, 3 goes on the Carousel and one spin on Dumbo and a beautiful end shot of the castle lit up for Christmas. Disney even had the thoughtfulness to dust the air with snow to go with the entire Main Street Christmas theme. A truly magical day even without Snow White.

Most magical to me is that my mom came with us. She took me there when I was in my 2s and here we were again, with generation number 3. Even when she annoys me to no end, I am grateful she is around to share these moments with us. In the pictures no one can see that she went the whole day adamantly insisting we’re not paying $2.50 for water. So we couldn’t show off our Aquafina. I have the pictures of us, my little family. I may not have a husband, but I have a daughter who knows she’s loved by more than just me.

We’ve created the large scale memories to last a lifetime.

A picture perfect trip. Here's to hoping CVS doesn’t screw up the prints.