I have but one question, one thought clinking around in my brain, one simple wondering that I cannot seem to escape: truly, how does a moment last forever?
Three weeks ago today, I was walking hand-in-hand with two of my dearest friends, Noel and Jake, through the most magical place on Earth — Walt Disney World.
Somehow, this memory feels as if it happened both a lifetime ago and also just yesterday. The edges of the memory have begun to fray: what was I wearing on Saturday? and what was the name of that ride we waited in line for two hours to get on? and, wait, was my flight back delayed four hours or five? (The answer to that one is five.)
What remains strong and clear in my mind is the excitement I felt on my five hour drive to Jake’s house — I was so ecstatic about what was to come that the drive felt like it took less time than going home to my parents’ house. And then, when I got to Jake’s, he made me a panini and we sat around murmuring (and occasionally screaming) about how we were waking up at 4 a.m. to go see Noel.
And I’ll never forget our faces and the near-tears when Noel pulled up to the curb at the Orlando airport and got out of the car so fast that I almost fell over when she wrapped me up in her precious hug.
Oh, and who could forget the magic of seeing Kreacher peak his little house-elf head through the curtains at 12 Grimmauld Place? Or how I once more was brought to near-tears when I first saw Diagon Alley and then Hogsmeade? There was Ollivander’s, butterbeer, Olly and Polly the pygmy puffs, an insanely terrifying 3D Gringotts ride, the beauty of Dumbledore’s office. And Fawkes. There was Fawkes. I love Fawkes.
I could never sum up the joy I felt while adventuring through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my friends. There isn’t enough space on the internet for those ramblings. The same, of course, could be said for my time at Disney World. For, in just two days, we managed to see all four parks. By the time we made it back to our hotel at night, we were too tired to even sleep. Instead, we stayed up giggling. How could I ever forget those tears — the ones of exhausted laughter that overtook us at 1 a.m. when we really should have been long gone in dreamland?
There is so much more to recap from my trip: the wonderful rides and roller coasters (turns out, I love them!), the food, the sights, my future husband from Germany, Nico. My favorite ride was definitely Flight of Passage in Pandora, which is funny considering that I refuse to watch the movie Avatar. The park I most enjoyed was Epcot, though the view of Cinderella’s Castle was absolutely everything I’d ever imagined. The fireworks show, Happily Ever After, did get me a little misty-eyed. It made me believe, if even for a second, that I could make all of my dreams come true. It really was a magical place, and I really did walk around all weekend singing “how does a moment last forever?” to my friends.
The moment that the bubble burst and I realized the moment would not, could not, last forever, I was filled to the brim with emotion. Bittersweet, melancholy joy: joy that the adventure happened. Bittersweet, melancholy sadness: sadness that Jake and I really weren’t allowed to pack Noel in our suitcase and bring her back with us. Heartbreak that we really had to leave her behind.
While we were in Hogsmeade, waiting in line for the ride in Hogwarts, my heart leapt from my chest as I realized that this was the happiest memory I’d ever lived in. I looked at Noel and Jake that night and, pretending I was way less emotional than I was, I said, “I’ve been struggling for years to figure out what my happiest memory would be, if I could cast a Patronus. Now I know.”
Yes, now I know. I know exactly what it feels like to have a happiest memory, to have a moment so dear to my heart that I continually ask myself how I can make it last forever.
Disney World was magical, and so was Universal Studios. But those places aren’t what made my memory so strong, and they aren’t even the reason I want to go back.
It’s friendship; real, deep, strong friendship that makes me want to book a flight and go to Orlando again right now. It’s the people that make it last. It’s the laughter around the table, the racing side-by-side to the last ride of the night, and it’s the “hey, did you put sunblock on?” that makes this memory so strong.
Sweet Noel (since I know you’re reading this), I hope you know that Jake and I traveled across the country not for the free tickets to Disney and not for the Ollivander wands, but for you. You are the reason for our journey; you are the reason we are planning to do it all again.
And Jake (who knows if you’ll read this, but you better), I hope you know that I couldn’t have chosen a better travel buddy if I’d tried — and, although you were stingy with Noel, I am absolutely so thankful for your jokes, your laughter, and your willingness to follow me through an airport the wrong direction simply because you are a good, good human.
Friendship is a crazy cool and amazing thing. I never, ever, ever would have guessed in my wildest dreams that I’d have the chance to go on such an adventure simply to squish my friend and remind her for a few days that she is so immensely loved.
If ever I am in trouble and need a little light, all I have to do is stick out my wand, remember these beautiful, magical days, and say, “Expecto patronum!”
The light will come, and the darkness will fade.
Friends, thank you.
Expecto patronum: memory, please, never fade away.