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Holy City, Magic Kingdom

During two weeks in December, I left a nine-day stay in Israel only to arrive at the Magic Kingdom 36 hours later. These seemingly opposite destinations hold much in common, beyond simply the number of minutes one spends waiting in lines, and the amount of money one expends in order to arrive at either locale. In addition to the preponderance of wigs and personalize-able yarmulke shops (some with mouse ears), a pilgrimage to either of these sacred sites involves a phenomenon I can only describe as “awe-fatigue.”

One starts a visit to the Holy Land awestruck by the sheer fact of modern people conversing in Hebrew. As you slowly acculturate to the fact that Hebrew exists not just in camp song and Torah portion, your tour guide starts pointing out thousands-of-year-old everything: thousand year old trees, thousands year old pedestrian malls, thousands-of-year-old mosaics, and your thousand-year-old reflection in the mirror after a 12 hour day touring the desert.  “Thousands” becomes your new definition of old. America suddenly seems like a 250 year old toddler, and Mount Rushmore like a Hollywood set. You aren’t simply crossing a street, you’re walking where Abraham walked and, in fact, planted a tree in this very site from which wood was carved to make Jesus’ cross. 


By the end of the week, however, your awe becomes unsustainable. You can no longer approximate a sufficiently wide-eyed expression of amaze. Full of a week’s worth of hummus/falafel/baklava, and despite more than a latte of Turkish coffee, you wonder…How do I demonstrate enough facial appreciation for 2000 year old human remains, when what I’d really like to do is lie down in that cool, shallow grave, and have someone wake me when it’s time to get back on the tour bus?

Similarly, a day at Disney begins full of energy, optimism, and hopefully at least one person in your party who knows how to fast-pass-yer-ass around the park. For the first two hours it’s hard to talk given all the smiling and gaping mouths ala “FIRST I GOT WHIPLASHED BY A MOUNTAIN OF SPACE AND THEN IT’S A SMALL WORLD BEGUILED ME WITH A DAZZLING CHILDREN-OF-THE CORN-IQUE MELANCHOLY I WASN’T READY FOR AND CAN’T EXPLAIN. THEN I SMELLED ACTUAL PIE IN MICKEY’S PHILHARMAGIC WHILE 4D-DONALD DUCK LITERALLY SPAT IN MY FACE!” By the end of the day you park your entire family in a castle gutter and collectively sulk at the megawatt electrical parade (Can’t we watch this on the iPad?), counting the minutes until you can rewind-welcome-parade to the monorail, to the tram, to parking lot area WOODY(lost his)10 (hours ago).

Considering my back-to-back awe-fatigue, I proved easy prey for Disney’s calculated awe-refueling stations. In fact, I welcomed my respite courtesy of Peter Pan’s Flight.  I climbed into the pirate-ship for two, and soared high above London town, which seemed totally feasible given half my brain still lingered somewhere near Tel Aviv.

Wendy stands by Peter Pan's side as he steers a ship that takes the Darling children to Neverland


In Israel I spent 9 days as aunt, daughter, and sister—completely removed from motherhood island—as my mom and I traveled together to see my older brother sworn-in as a judge. From the vantage point of my flying pirate ship, all my travels became a sentimental mash-up: I spied the lost boys and saw my brother taking his oath, shaking the hand of Shimon Peres. As Peter Pan faced Captain hook, I saw my mother and father reach a nearly loving detente in a Jerusalem restaurant. I saw Wendy snuggled up in an armchair with Michael and John like I did with my niece and nephew; reclaiming the doting Aunt role I haven’t enjoyed in a decade.

As I saw Captain Hook straddling the croc’s open mouth, I remembered what it felt like in Israel not to hurry, not to meal plan, not to calculate the available minutes remaining for reading, baths, and screen time as another day snaps its teeth closed. Wendy tucked Michael and John into bed, and the image of my mom on all fours in her pajamas on top of my feet at 3 am surfaced:

“Mom? What are you doing? Are you okay?”

“I thought you were the bolster.”  (She was trying to get back to bed from the bathroom without waking me. She woke me. We laughed for ten minutes).

January has delivered me from the various airships back to my own home. I’ve readjusted to central standard time, and I trust that with enough distance and time my potential for awe will recalibrate accordingly. I miss my brother and his family, the Turkish coffee, and days ending without snapping jaws. I cherished the moments with my mom in Israel, and my husband’s family in Florida. I’m thankful for the journey. Someday, given sufficient age of my children and funds in the bank, we will return to The Holy City. No promises on The Magic Kingdom, however.


Join me here next week for #WhereILivedWednesday (1/22/14)

No rules on what/how you write, just that it describes a place/state of mind you once inhabited. No need to have a blog, either! Post some recollections on Facebook with the hashtag #WhereILivedWednesday.

16 comments… add one

  • KM OSullivan January 13, 2014, 3:55 pm

    When I was 8 years old we moved back to American after living in Jerusalem for 3 years. Our first stop in the US? Disney World. While I have great memories (being 8 and all) my father just couldn’t get past the fake rocks and fabricated ruins.

  • Melisa January 13, 2014, 3:57 pm

    I love this real hard.

  • tracy@sellabitmum January 13, 2014, 6:45 pm

    I’m exhausted reading this. And laughed at loud at your 3am encounter with your mom. and the bolster. Love Love.

  • noisycats.com January 13, 2014, 7:05 pm

    That is some kind of traveler’s whiplash, ancient and authentic to futuristic and fake.

    I will happily join you for #WhereILivedWednesday again next week!

  • Getrealmommy January 13, 2014, 8:05 pm

    I have never been to Israel. And Disney land only once with my boys. I would like to do both-just maybe not back to back!

  • Zakary January 13, 2014, 10:54 pm

    I also need to lie down on your feet after reading this recap. Traveler’s whiplash is the perfect term.


  • Wendi January 14, 2014, 8:22 am

    I’m still amazed you did all of that without any type of Disneyworld or Tel Aviv jail involved. “Fast-pass-yer-ass” is gold.

  • Shannon from Deepest Worth January 14, 2014, 8:41 am

    I am impressed with your stamina. Disney World is enough to send me to bed crying even without the jet lag. Tel Aviv sounds amazing. It’s so wonderful that you were able to go and spend time with your brother and his family. Congrats to him!

  • Marta January 14, 2014, 12:22 pm

    I’m impressed that you could do two back to back trips like that! That is a lot of awe! A few years ago in Disney (with friends not family) my friends remarked how it was possible that I had so much energy and I told them I was running on pure Disney Magic. =)

  • Alexandra Rosas January 14, 2014, 8:53 pm

    My favorite is t he near loving détente between mother and father.


  • Andrea January 15, 2014, 6:06 am

    Wow, so incredible and exhausting and incredible exhausting…just be carfeul climbing into bed. What a fantastic journey!

  • When I Blink January 17, 2014, 7:01 am

    Whoa. That’s quite the compare-and-contrast trip. And you must have been EXHAUSTED.

    This is a fabulous essay.

  • Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac January 17, 2014, 7:34 pm

    CRACKING UP about you and your mom and the bolster!!

  • Nina Badzin January 18, 2014, 12:27 pm

    I so relate to that numbing of the awe. It’s real. Can only summon so much awe.

  • Heidi Cave January 20, 2014, 9:02 pm

    What Melisa said – I love this real hard. Ann, I’m in awe of your writing and story-telling and your journey. “Sentimental mash-up”? Love.

  • Jack January 21, 2014, 1:05 am

    I never get enough of Jerusalem, miss it when I am gone.

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