April 1, 2018 – Orlando, FL
This is the first time I’ve used a picture of something that I didn’t eat myself. That egg is completely made of chocolate, and was on display for the 2018 Easter season at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. It was my first Easter away from home, but at least I was working an afternoon shift at the luxurious resort.
My roommates were more into faith than I am. I hadn’t been to church since the previous summer, but I was excited to go to a service with them on Easter morning.
It was always one of my favorite church services of the year growing up. This service would be held at the convention center at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We sat amongst hundreds of other cast members and vacationing families there to worship. My church back home was on the small side. The parishioners knew each other’s names and the Reverend spent her week visiting the homes of some church members. At the beginning of Lent one year, us kids made a huge colorful banner saying “Hallelujah.” For the duration of Lent, this banner was put inside a box, too gleeful for the somber services we had. Then on Easter, the banner came out and hung from the choir’s balcony. We sang “The Angel Rolled the Stone Away” and at the end, all the children gathered for an Easter egg hunt.
Then my family would go to my grandparents’ house, where we enjoyed a ham dinner and a dessert of Italian cookies and, usually, a death by chocolate trifle made by my aunt. When we were really young, all the cousins did an Easter egg hunt. Two egg hunts in one day was pretty big for me. But in more recent years it was a quiet event, meant to give us an opportunity to enjoy each other’s presence. Easter was the first holiday that took place after my mom’s death, and this would only be my second Easter since then. I longed to be with my family, but if I had to be at work, I could make the best of the day.
After the huge church service, my roommate and I went to the Grand Floridian, where we conducted an impromptu photoshoot of me in the dress I brought to Florida specifically for this day. I wore my mom’s white sandals, and red lipstick. I felt precious posing at the famous wedding pavillion and on the Victorian inspired furniture in the lobby. We walked along the white buildings of the resort, the Florida sun giving me a glow.
During the months that I worked there, the Grand became my home. The wide open lobby, at once intimidating, became the friendly space I walked through sometimes before or after work. I was on a budget, but on this day I let myself indulge in the breakfast that we sold. My work friend made sure to give me the most fresh Mickey waffles.
Serving the iconic Mickey waffles was the beginning of the excitement at my job. I got to ask little princesses for their autographs and I saw Alice and the Mad Hatter hanging out with their lunch. As Disney’s flagship resort, we had a level of hospitality to maintain. We were made to say “Hello” or “Good morning” to every single guest we saw. The words “Hey” and “No” were forbidden. When I’d walk outside for a shift at the pool bar, I passed all types of guests getting their vacation days started. I’d greet them and sometimes help them find the monorail or make food recommendations.
When our Coke Freestyle machine ran out of soda, I’d go into the storage area where I would see Disney wedding cakes in progress. The famous Grand Floridian greeter, Richard, who worked there for over twenty-six years, was almost always standing out front in the morning to greet guests. I saw him in the food court sometimes, eating a boxed lunch. He passed about a month after I left, but I’m glad I got to see such a kind spirit so often.
I also saw weddings. Tons of weddings. A horse-drawn carriage brought brides down the path right in front of where I worked. Ladies in long gowns posed in the lobby often to take pictures that they’d look back on for years to come. My favorite wedding happened right outside our restaurant. I arrived at work, and noticed that outside in the space looking across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom, white chairs and flowers were lined up and ready for a ceremony. As the day went on and my coworkers and I talked about weddings and our dream weddings (we always had great conversations in between meal times), men in suits and women in dresses began to congregate in our restaurant.
Two of the groomsmen were very clearly in love, and even though it wasn’t technically their day, I wanted to do something for them, so I gave them one of our house baked cookies and chatted with them a little. Then the wedding started, and it became clear that this was not an ordinary wedding. Every single kid in attendance had a spot up with the wedding party. They were in costume, too. There was a mini Cinderella, a tiny Iron Man, an energetic Jasmine, a little Prince Charming. Each kid that joined the wedding party got an “Aww” from my coworkers and me, and when the two grooms stood across from each other, we kept peaking out the window to watch them exchange vows.
So after eating my breakfast from my restaurant, the time came for me to change into my costume for work as if it were a normal day. The guests, always friendly and beaming, were especially happy on this day. I enjoyed every interaction that I had, right up until the evening when the fireworks came and we slowed down, allowing me to stand outside and watch them. I’m thankful that my first Disney College Program placed me at the Grand Floridian. It was a memorable first Easter away from home, though I did miss my family.
Easter in quarantine won’t be as magical, but I haven’t given up all hope on enjoying myself on Sunday.