My 93-year-old mother and her 19-year-old great-grandchild, Abby, planned a family trip to Disney World last year. We went two weeks before Christmas and found that some other people had the same idea.
The Tuesday night crowd was not overwhelming due to a consistent forecast of inclement weather. Others, including us, optimistically ventured to The Magic Kingdom, refusing to believe it would rain on our parade. But a lot of our thrill-seeking companions didn’t stay long.
I’m not sure if it was the rain, wind, or lightning that sent them scampering. A loud clap of thunder made me thankful the metal wheelchair Mama had reluctantly agreed to ride in was equipped with rubber tires and handles.
As the rain began to steadily fall, we took shelter under a shop awning that quickly became too crowded. Raindrops transitioned into sheets of water which were blown at unpredictable angles by gusting winds. As more people magically maneuvered into make believe spaces, I wondered if claustrophobia could be fatal. I was glad to be tall enough to see above the crowd where I could dream about breathing fresh air from the empty street only a few steps away.
It was a pleasant assembly of slippery folks under the awning, but I decided to trust my water-resistant jacket and run to a picnic table just a few feet away. By moving a chair and hugging the sturdy umbrella pole I was able to stay dry from the knees up.
A polite young couple I assumed had traveled from Japan soon joined me.
“Where are you from?” I asked with extra volume supplemented with clarifying hand gestures.
“Philadelphia,” said the man. “How about you?”
“South Georgia” I replied. Then I told him about a life changing experience I had in his city in 1975 when I tasted my first Philly Club Cheese Sandwich. We were discussing Philadelphia’s notable culinary contribution when a bolt of lightning sent the two of them scurrying for better quarters.
That’s when a nice lady of maybe 70 or so walked up. She was tired, so she sat down in a chair although it exposed her back to the rain. By leaning forward her long poncho kept her pretty dry. She patiently waited in hopes the weather would break enough for her to make a run for the monorail.
A couple in their late fifties pushing an empty stroller then checked in at the front desk.
“If there’s supposed to be a baby in there, you folks may want to retrace your steps,” I suggested.
The man said he had noticed the stroller seemed lighter than it should be. The lady assured me the baby was with their daughter elsewhere in the kingdom. They were from Mobile, Alabama, so I told them we have a granddaughter who is a student at Auburn. “I’m sorry,” said the man. “We have some good friends that happened to.”
I didn’t want to get in a scuffle as I was wearing my best khakis, so I looked for common ground. I said, “Being from Alabama, I’ll bet you folks like cornbread dressing.” And that’s when we became temporary friends. We discovered our families rely on the same style recipes that have endured for several generations. It’s basic dressing like God intended with no bell peppers or hunks of celery.
The rain subsided so we said goodbye with Merry Christmas wishes. “Don’t forget your baby,” I said, “nor the one born long ago in Bethlehem.” I doubt I’ll ever spend a holiday in Mobile, Alabama, but it’s comforting, for reasons I can’t explain, to know that people there share my love for simple cornbread dressing. It won’t guarantee peace on earth, but I think it’s a small step in that direction.
I made a temporary friend, whose name I’ll never know.
It happens every now and then, when someone says hello