During a recent trip to Walt Disney World, Amy Beth Gardner, mother of two, reflected on the time she first brought her daughters to the happiest place on Earth. Both her’s and her daughter’s experience will have you in tears.
Gardner wrote that it was only a few months since she and her husband Paul started fostering Breonna and Bridgett, when her oldest, Breonna, told her something that made her heart break.
“I don’t think I will ever feel joy,” Gardner wrote, recalling what Breonna told her.
In her Facebook post the mother of two wrote how the conversation “sent a chill down my spine.”
The little girl, who was nine at the time, told Gardner that the past few months of living with the Gardners made her feel loved, safe, and secure, but she struggled with wondering if she’d ever experience joy.
“In that moment, watching a child I loved assume that joy was too far gone for her to grasp, I knew exactly what to do,” Gardner wrote.
Gardner started planning a trip to Walt Disney World.
Despite all the happy memories Breonna and Bridgett had already made in their new home, Gardner believed that a trip to the happiest place on Earth would be the icing on the cake.
She started casually introducing Disney movies to her girls so they would be familiar with the characters when they arrived at the parks. And since no trip to Disney would be complete without breakfast with the princesses, she made reservations to dine with Cinderella and her fellow princesses.
Everything was all set when Amy Beth and Paul surprised their children by telling them they were on their way to see Mickey Mouse.
Gardner was excited to see her daughters’ reactions to seeing Cinderella’s castle for the first time.
Gardner wrote that walking down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street gave her an array of emotions. On one hand her youngest appeared to be enjoying Magic Kingdom like every other five-year-old, but her oldest was more reserved.
“I felt disappointed and silently chastised myself for believing that a theme park could be what brought this child the feeling of joy,” Gardner wrote. “She expressed gratefulness that we had brought her but she wasn’t overly animated or expressive as she watched the magic unfold around her.”
Then she came to a realization, the joy wasn’t around Breonna, it was inside of her.
I didn’t know it then, but joy was waiting for her when our log went flying down Splash Mountain. Joy was hiding behind the curtain that the princesses came out from; joy was in Elsa’s arms as she hugged her while cameras flashed. Joy was floating all around us when I leaned over to her during It’s A Small World and whispered that the ride looked the same as when I rode it as a little girl. Joy looked an awful lot like her first Mickey Mouse ice cream bar as it dripped down her hands. Joy chased her through Space Mountain and helped her score points with Buzz Lightyear’s help. Late that night, joy lit up the night sky much brighter than any fireworks ever could. As I watched her face in the glow of those fireworks I knew that, even if she didn’t know what word to assign to the emotion she was experiencing for the first time, I did.
While waiting outside the park for the tram back to their resort, Breonna started crying.
Gardner asked her what was wrong and she responded, “I think this is what joy must feel like.”
You can read Gardner’s full Facebook post here.