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Finding Harmony in Advent: Day 18–Mother at the End of Her Rope

December 18, 2013

P1040597Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. John 14: 1 NRSV

No Room in the Inn and Mother at the End of Her Rope

Many people visit Disney World over the Christmas holidays. It is a fantasy come true, or a near disaster? Our family looked forward to our children’s first visit there in the 90’s. Isn’t it the epitome of every kid’s dream?

My parents, who at that time spent their winters in Florida, were paying for the visit, as they did for all of the other grandchildren at the “appropriate age.” We rented a hotel for one night—not the deluxe kind inside the gates but a cheap, cheap one on the outskirts, We booked two rooms for the seven of us for the day after Christmas.

We headed to Disney World early in the morning and enjoyed most of the day but by late afternoon the lines were forever and my parents were tired. We agreed that I would go check them into the hotel, and then I’d return to the park. We agreed on a meeting time and place: 6:30 should allow me plenty of time to make the trip and get them settled into their room. This was long before cell phones, of course.

Traffic was horrendous and by the time I got to the hotel, the desk clerk said there was only one room reserved for us, and they had no more rooms in the inn. They said all the other nearby hotels were full. We would just have to rough it with all the kids on the floor (fire codes not withstanding). I fetched my parents some sandwiches from a nearby fast food restaurant, and headed back to Dizzy World.

By then the traffic was almost at a complete standstill, and as the time approached to meet up with the family, I was past the point of crying. I knew there was no way I could get to the grounds, park, and get to our appointed meeting place by the agreed upon time. They would just have to wait. They wouldn’t be happy, but what choice did I have? I turned on some music and let “Peace Like a River” flood over my soul.

Meanwhile, my husband heard an announcement that there were no more visitors being allowed into the park. They were full. He, too, started to panic. How would I get back in? He talked to an attendant. They got on the phone.

Finally I got to the gate and by then the flow of visitors had eased enough that they did let me in. But once on main street, I couldn’t go anywhere! Crowds were lining up for the daily parade and it was quite impossible for me to move anywhere. By now I was more than 45 minutes past our agreed upon time. I couldn’t cry now. They just had to wait.

Then I devised a path by snaking in and out of stores: with the crowds all out on the streets, if I could make my way into a store, I could traverse the width of the store in relative solitude, go out a side door, and then push my way through the crowd when on the street, gaining ground much faster. In and out I went for a few blocks.

At long last, I was within sight of our meeting place. My husband was on the phone with a guard, saying they had to let me in. I hollered and finally managed to throw myself into the arms of my anxious family. We were all past being upset with the late hour—just glad to be reunited in that mass of humanity. For the rest of the evening, my husband made sure we held hands whenever we pushed through crowds so that no one got separated. How scary when the youngest was just six.

We made up for lost time by trying to hurry to as many rides as we could in the waning hours. My oldest and her father could have kept going until 1 a.m., but finally I had had it. I wanted to leave. I was exhausted. Father and daughter begged for one more ride. Suddenly I thought my purse was not in my hand. I lost my composure and had the closest thing to a panic attack I ever had—crying and struggling to breath on the streets of Fantasyland.  Then my middle daughter saw that my purse, rather than being in my hand, had simply slipped to the crook of my arm, and I didn’t even realize it. Everyone tried to calm me down, and father and older daughter finally got the message that it was really, truly, time to take mother back to the hotel. My middle daughter kept saying, “Mommy, don’t have a nervous breakdown!” I said, “I’m okay, I’m okay.”

I do wonder if there was a point at which Mary—the pregnant, in-labor Mary accompanied by her ever-loving but maybe overly ambitious and optimistic Joseph, just lost it—in their search for lodging that eventful night. I’m sure if Mary was angry with Joseph, later on maybe it was one of those special family memories she “pondered” deep in her heart. We do know they both got angry at their son, Jesus, and probably at each other, when Jesus was “lost” when they made a big holiday trip to Jerusalem when he was 12 years old.

Every family has experiences like this—even (or maybe especially) during the Christmas holidays. And somehow if we can survive them, and live to laugh about them, we will treasure them in our hearts as part of what it means to be a family.

Do you have a bad holiday memory that has turned into something you can joke about?

The music I listened to that stressful day was from the Mennonite Hour music collection, which you can browse here.


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

    I read this one with bated breath and feeling your anxiety as you went through this nerve wracking experience. We never traveled much when our family was young as we had a summer cottage we went to in the summer In face we just had our first trip to Florida this past spring.
    The only thing trip that comes to mind was in 1967 when we took our two oldest children to Expo ’67 in Montreal Canada which was to celebrate Canada’s centennial year.and o be honest I cannot really remember too much about it so I guess we didn’t have any major problems.
    Certainly Joseph and Mary must have been more than beside themselves with the journey they were on and the only accommodations that they ended up in.
    Praise God for the gift of His Son born in the first King sized bed – A manger!

    • It is interesting to ponder the true human responses of Mary and Joseph in their desperate situation. It can’t have been calm.

      • Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

        It certainly is, but that is not something that we really hear about in the Christmas story that we have grown up with!

  2. What a horrible no good very bad day. But what a blessing that you choose to use that memory as a way to identify with Mary. You helped me do the same. Pondering in my heart.

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