by Makena W.
“We are going to Disney World.” Words every child dreams of hearing. There are many ways to break the news-it can be as simple as sharing the news over dinner or venturing through the woods on a treasure hunt. If my parents won an award for anything, it would be “Most Creative People When It Comes to Announcing Trips to Walt Disney World.” They have come up with many unique ideas-from playing a popular TV game show with a twist, scavenger hunts where you’re not sure what you found even after you’ve found it or contacting a celebrity (at least in my eyes) to tell me about my trip. For the next few weeks, my blogs will be about my experiences with getting told about and being a part of announcing vacations to “The Happiest Place On Earth.”
The first event that led to happiness occurred on a Friday in November of 2008. We spent the day at the zoo. The cold, crisp air was comforting as we strolled past animals of all kinds at the Philadelphia Zoo. My footsteps mirrored my mother’s as we walked out of the exit gates to go to dinner. My dad was at work, so sadly he couldn’t join my mom, my brother and I in the city.
Or at least that’s what we were told.
We went out to dinner at a restaurant closer to our home. Our dad decided to join us as we ate what we didn’t realize was our last organized meal for a few days. When we arrived home, my father said, “Let’s go in through the garage.” That was weird. We never go in through the garage. A poster was waiting for us in the garage that talked about how we usually play games Friday nights-but this one was going to be a little different. My brother and I were told to dress in “filthy” rags and put on our Survivor buffs (we had received them years before as Valentine’s Day gifts). Following that, we walked into the house. We didn’t know it, but my dad never went to work at all. He stayed home and transformed our home into an island! We were in the world of Survivor.
Survivor is a very popular reality TV show. For 24 seasons, ordinary people get stranded on an island with only the clothes on their backs, have to scavenge to find food, can only earn things by winning challenges and get voted off periodically. The last one standing gets $1,000,000. My family and I watch this show every Wednesday (and at the time, Thursday) and we love the program.
The decor in the house was island themed-with all televisions and bookshelves covered with “bamboo”. Logos from all seasons hung on the walls, including one that had our last name on it. A parrot which could be the barter bird from Pirates of the Caribbean was above a mirror that was covered in “bamboo” also. A little wooden jug was even placed on a small table with a pen just like when the tribes go to tribal council on the television show. Also similar to the popular TV series was another woven basket which contained our tree mail. Tree Mail is the way that the host, Jeff Probst, stays in contact with the tribe members by leaving them hints regarding their next challenge. We got tree mail that rhymed and gave very good clues.
Now, we had many challenges to complete (trivia, remote control car driving through an obstacle course, throw a ball at tiny targets, lead each other through a course using only words, math, paper airplane construction, rubber band shooting – sorry green army men, building blocks which looked exactly like a picture, memory and many more), so I don’t want to go into detail for every single one-but I will highlight my favorite. The tree mail slip said “If you win this award your stomach may not grumble, all you have to do is try not to fumble…If you pick the right key, this will get you what you see.” We were led to the kitchen by my parents to see a black suitcase locked shut by two locks. If front of them were two containers that formerly contained chicken wings and now cooked noodles. The rules were then explained to my brother and I- a small key that matched the corresponding lock was somewhere in the pile of noodles. We had to hunt through the slimy noodles as fast as possible, find the key and open up the suitcase by putting the key in the lock. Once the gun shot to signal the beginning of the challenge (okay, it was just my dad saying “go”), everything was a blur. I only remember my strategy-I forced my hands to work like claws and moved them in the breast stroke swimming position through the noodles. The click of the lock brought me back to the real world as I looked over and saw that my brother was still hunting through the noodles. I won! What did I win, you ask? Well, the suitcase contained food, and a lot of it. (Did I mention that, just like Survivor, we would only have access to what we won?) Since my parents chose not to tell us how long we were playing this game, we ate as if we just had a full meal at the Crystal Palace and only a little room for dessert because we had no idea how long this food would have to last! In addition, I also won something else-a bag of coins. After every challenge-a bag of coins was the reward. We weren’t told why and we were not allowed to open them. These would come into play later.
Immediately after this challenge, we went hunting for hidden immunity idols. If you watch the show Survivor, you know that there is usually a necklace of some sort hidden in their camp. Whoever finds it can use it at any tribal council to avoid being voted out. Of course, we don’t have a camp. So instead the idols were hidden in our rooms. We were given the first clue. Eventually, one clue led to another and we found our necklaces. My brother’s was a skull and mine was more island themed.
The hunt for immunity was the last activity of the night. When we came back to the living room (aka where we did most of the challenges) candles were lit as if we were in tribal council. The shadows of the flames flickered across the walls, radiating an eerie feeling. “Alright,” my mom said, “time for bed.” In an earlier challenge, my brother and I won blankets, so we guessed that we weren’t going to be sleeping in our comfortable beds. And we were right. We got ready for a “good night’s sleep” (it was anything but that!) as our parents walked into their room smugly.
The next day was uneventful. Our parents claimed that the next challenge would be at six that night. I woke up with an aching back and bored out of my mind. So right now you are probably reading this blog on a computer. On Survivor, they don’t have computers so we lost access to ours. Let’s just say that a lot of rounds of Rock Paper Scissors were played that day. We were not allowed to do ANYTHING unless it was done with items on the “island” or which we had won. To make matters worse, my mom had to run an errand at A.C. Moore, and we were younger than so she didn’t want to leave us alone in the house. Believe it or not, she took us with her-in our rags. She would not let us change clothes (since on the island we only had what we were wearing) and we got a lot of weird looks from people! And remember the limited amount of food? My mom and dad decided to drink cold, iced tea and eat cookies in front of us! They are very good taunters!
Eventually, 6 o’clock rolled around. After a few more challenges, it was time to finally open up the coin bags. Each coin has a letter on it. Each bag’s coins together spelled a word. When we put the words together, we got the phrase “We hope you enjoy your Christmas present. Love, Mom and Dad.” “I knew it!” I exclaimed. I figured that this had something to do with our Christmas gift since Christmas was a month away. My parents left the room and told us to stay put. A brown box was brought out. On the count of three, we were instructed to open the box. When we did, we were greeted by those little peanuts that are packed into boxes when you buy something fragile. My brother and I started digging through the box, hitting nothing until I felt my hand pass along a piece of paper. I pulled it out and discovered it was more than one. I couldn’t see what it was, so I gave one to my brother and said “On the count of three, let’s open it up.” I started counting and eventually the number three reached my lips and I unraveled this mysterious paper. It was a customizable Disney World map from their website. It took a second for it to sink in-I was going back home!
I hope you enjoyed my nonfiction story. Please share your “Breaking the News” experiences down below. I am looking forward to reading about other people’s happiness.
Congratulations to BrerPeter who got my last “Where in the World?” picture correct. I am impressed!
Tune in the next few weeks to hear about some of my other experiences including playing a game show that involves costumes and a Wednesday night that changed my life as I know it.
See ya REAL soon! ~Makena
Quote of the Week: “Do not pull down on the safety bar please, I will lower it for you.” ~Master Gracy, Haunted Mansion.