A magical time in a magical place

The magical charm of Celebration, Florida. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford
The magical charm of Celebration, Florida. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

Tall, slate gray, long-neck, long-legged sandhill cranes stood two feet above our car. They strolled the sidewalk just outside our front door feasting on hundreds of tiny geckos. We watched them throw their crimson crowned heads up and vocalize their mating calls in an extended litany of song. Sometimes, we heard this instant continual defensive mode of a unique haunting bugling alarms when they encountered a dog walking through the canine friendly neighborhood. It was a magical time in a magical place.

The property was originally used as a place to relocate alligators found in Disney World, so seeing one was not unusual for native Floridians. Unaccustomed to living with the animal, I was startled to see what I described as a five foot alligator basking in the sun by a pond at the golf course where my family had invaded the territory the day before. I stood corrected. It was only three feet long. Otherwise, the caretakers would have moved it to another area.

Contrary to what some may believe, snow does fall in the sunshine state. During the nightly December tradition, we watched snow fall every hour on the hour on Market Street. Charles Dickens carolers strolled the white streets. We experienced romantic horse drawn carriage rides. Photos with Santa provided magical memories.

Only Walt Disney could make snow fall in Florida every December. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford
Only Walt Disney could make snow fall in Florida every December. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

Designed with a Caribbean flavor and brightly colored stucco buildings, the storybook atmosphere of downtown Celebration was enchanting. While dining on fish tacos outdoors at our favorite restaurant, Market Street Cafe, one of the many big grackles perched in trees provided entertainment for us. He flew down, picked up a packet of sugar with its beak, shook his head, and sugar scattered everywhere. Soon after that, sugar was available in glass containers only.

The most enjoyable part of working for B.A.S.S./ESPN/ABC/ Disney was sharing our good fortune with family and friends. The signature of Mickey Mouse on paychecks was a wonderful benefit of being a cast member. Our silver passes allowed us and three others free daily admission into Disney World for three years.

While approaching retirement, we considered remaining in Florida; however, the final decision included living near our children and grandchildren. Twenty years earlier, I had vowed that I would never return to the land of wide open spaces, cactus, armadillos, scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes …Texas.

That is another story.

And then we said goodbye to the palm trees and hello to the cactus. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford
And then we said goodbye to the palm trees and hello to the cactus. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

 

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Faye, Linda and I have been to Celebration, walked the streets where you walked and ate in your favorite restaurant. There was only one problem. You and Gerald weren’t there. Celebration is a wonderful place.

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