A friend of mine returned to the office today after spending a week at Disney with her family. Jodi has two beautiful daughters who are the perfect ages for a wonderland full of magical creatures. She told me how they waited in line for an hour to see Tinkerbell and Periwinkle, the two fairies that appear in Disney’s latest movie. I imagined standing in line with two antsy, excited little girls, surrounded by other antsy, excited children. Somehow, the mental picture was rather unappealing. Indeed, just yesterday I was at the mall, doing some preliminary scouting for Christmas gifts. There was a long line of families waiting to see Santa and I heard child after cranky child whining and crying because they were too tired, too impatient, too hungry or too indulged. Standing in line for an hour for kid’s stuff does not in any way appeal to me.
Jodi broke my train of thought. “The girls were really well behaved, and besides, seeing the looks on their faces when they finally caught a glimpse of Tinkerbell and Periwinkle made it all worth it,” she explained.
And then I remembered.
It was the late 90’s, and Abby was fifteen. She and her friends were huge fans of the boy band, NSYNC. She listened to NSYNC mix tapes. She watched NSYNC videos. She was glued to the TV set for NSYNC interviews and had NSYNC posters. There were times when I thought if I had to listen to “Tearin’ Up My Heart” one more time I would tear out my own heart. But as every teen’s parent knows, if you share your kids’ music, they let you into their lives, so I listened to Justin, Chris, Lance, Joey and JC croon in perfectly choreographed harmony until they sang “Bye, Bye, Bye” and Abby moved on to more mature music.
In the midst of this musical obsession, Abby and her friend Elizabeth saved enough money to go to an NSYNC concert. Abby asked her father to buy them tickets and after spending an hour on the phone and finding nothing available in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, he purchased two seats in Albany, New York- a three hour drive from our home.
The morning of the concert, snow fell so hard that school was canceled. I considered canceling the trip to New York, but after taking one look at Abby’s crushed face, her dad insisted that we go. We navigated the icy highway and arrived in Albany a couple of hours before the concert and found a parking spot directly across the street from the arena, in front of an Italian restaurant. We ate a quick dinner and after instructions to stay together, with breathless goodbyes the girls sprinted across the street, while we sat in the car.
Our finances were limited and the night was cold, so we ran the car for short periods of time- just long enough to warm our fingers and toes. Every hour we fed the parking meter a few quarters and once we took a short trip to the Italian restaurant for coffee and a bathroom break. We were cold. We were tired. We were bored.
But at eleven o’clock, the arena doors opened and the streets filled with teenage girls searching for their rides. Amid the crowd were Abby and Elizabeth-faces flushed, feet barely skipping on the pavement, bubbling with excitement. I had never seen my daughter so happy, and the look on her face warmed my soul and radiated to my frozen toes.
The three hour drive home passed quickly as Abby and Elizabeth chattered about the concert, and when we finally got home, I tucked my sleepy teenager into bed, knowing that sweet choruses of “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You” would drift through her head and fill her dreams. I climbed into bed, cuddling my icy feet against my already sleeping husband, a feeling of utter satisfaction lulling me to sleep.
That was more than ten years ago, but as I listened to Jodi speak about her little girls and the thrill of meeting Tinkerbell and Periwinkle, it became yesterday. This is the stuff of perfect memories- the frustrations of standing in line, waiting on hold, or sitting in a frigid car melt with the sparkle of your child’s eye. They are worth the effort. Because acts of love are truly magic.