“I want adventure
in the great wide somewhere.”
– Belle, Beauty and the Beast
God said, “Let a stranger pay for her gas.”
Not at one, but at two different gas stations, people paid for my gas.
And my toll roads.
And my dinner in Nashville.
And the night I spent at a hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
And it was good and I laughed.
God said, “Let there be no traffic in Atlanta.”
And there was no traffic, no construction, and no highway patrolmen to be seen in Atlanta.
And it was quite good and I laughed some more.
God said, “Let the heavens open.”
And on the day I had purchased my ticket for Walt Disney World, it absolutely poured. Not a short, thirty-minute little soaker. A sun-up-to-sun-down-where-is-Noah’s-ark-river-raising downpour.
And I loved it.
It wasn’t too long after Mom died that Dad and I went on our very first adventure. He decided to take me camping. Tent and fishing poles and cast iron skillet and everything. He thought a change of scenery and some time away from our familiar places and routines might help to lift our spirits.
There is no shortage of places to camp in southwest Missouri. Dad chose a place recommended by friends from church where we could hike and swim and fish and get a taste of outdoor living. The first day and night were perfect. Bob Ross would have been inspired by the scenery, and Dr. Seuss could have written something fun about our time catching trout and roasting marshmallows.
Dad told bedtime story after bedtime story, and we both fell asleep.
Crashes of thunder startled both of us awake. Within minutes, sheets of rain were pounding the tent. I peeked out the tent just in time to see a blinding flash of lightning split a tree not too far from us. I screamed and started crying.
Dad tried his best to comfort me. He carried me to the front seat of the car and told me to stay put while he finished packing. Dad was not that far away. But in the brief moments he was gone, focused on trying to get everything together, water started to gush down the hillside and pooled in the floorboard of the car.
I was petrified.
Dad returned with a handful of camping equipment and witnessed the horror. He dropped the equipment and jumped into the car. I am convinced it is a miracle that the car started and Dad was able to drive away. We made it home safe, and, for years, I’d crawl into bed with Dad anytime there was a storm in the middle of the night.
We never went camping again.
Since that camping experience with Dad, I have been afraid of storms. Not just afraid. Petrified. Horrified. When the tornado sirens sound, I take shelter immediately and pray with all my heart. I decided it was time to face my fears and embrace the storm.
I thought of Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, sitting in the crow’s nest screaming at the heavens.
I also thought of the cow-flying-over-the-road scene in Twister and had to take a few deep breaths.
The hostess of the Airbnb had an umbrella and a poncho I could borrow. I wore my swimsuit underneath a t-shirt and a pair of shorts along with sandals. I survived the white-knuckled drive by repeating a verse Dad taught me, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
The park was practically empty.
I stepped out of my car and was soaked in moments.
The rain was warm. I had made it to Disney World.
“I cannot control the weather, but I can control my attitude,” I recalled Lisa saying.
I determined to have some fun.
With Cinderella’s castle in view, I walked up Main Street and started singing.
I’m singin’ in the rain
Just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughin’ at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face
I’ll walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Singin’ in the rain
I danced through the storm, high-fived strangers, and took soaking wet selfies all over the park.
The weather vane on top of the red brick building was spinning, just like it was my dance partner. The front of the building featured the Presidential Seal and the number 1787.
The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
I walked inside, soaked to the bone, and tried to shake off some of the excess water near the entrance. Written on the wall in gold letters was the official greeting.
The HALL of PRESIDENTS
A Celebration of
The lobby was full of paintings, facts, and memorabilia from all of the presidents. The cowboy boots of George W. Bush. James Monroe’s chess set. George Washington’s beer stein. An essay written by Richard Nixon when he was in elementary school.
A cast member greeted the handful of people in the lobby with me, all seeking refuge from the rain. I walked over to the young man in the long coat, knickers, and tall socks and recited my prepared speech.
“My name is Gracelyn Gordon. I think my dad sent something here for me to pick up. Do you know anything about it?”
Clue Number Eight