It's a topsy-turvy time we are living in. We're all cooped up. Antsy.
To coin a term, let's call it the "shelter skelter" period.
The Sandy family of Ooltewah was planning a respite from all this: a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Back in March, when it felt like the coronavirus lockdown might last only a few weeks, Jose and Jorrie Sandy and their three kids were anticipating a long-planned Florida vacation in late May.
Ultimately, their trip got canceled due to the pandemic. Aborted family vacations are part of the fallout from COVID-19. The U.S. Travel Association reported last week that the nation's travel economy has lost $215 billion in revenue since the beginning of March.
The Sandy kids had been hoping for this vacation for years. Big "Star Wars" fans, the children had been squirreling away their allowances for months to buy light sabers and toy robots at Disney World.
The youngest child, Jaxon, age 6, would ask when he was tiny: "Mommy, can we please go to the most magical place on Earth?"
Over time, that wears on a parent.
Still, Jorrie, a federal government worker, knew that a family vacation to Disney World would be a financial stretch for her and her husband Jose, an auto industry worker. A week's stay at a Disney resort could easily come with a five-figure price tag.
Then, one day late last year, Jorrie was browsing the internet when she noticed an offer that seemed too good to be true. The family's timeshare qualified for a swap to a Disney World resort for $239 a week. She quickly snagged a reservation for two weeks beginning May 22.
"It was the perfect time," she said, "the day after the boys got out of school. And, in May, it wouldn't be unbearably hot."
The couple's two sons, Jaxon and Ian, 11, both attend Snow Hill Elementary School. A daughter, Kiera, age 9, is home-schooled. The trip promised an end-of-the-school-year celebration, a reward for their good academic work.
Jorrie immediately went to work looking for discounted Disney World park tickets. At regular prices, tickets alone would have cost the family about $3,600, she said.
Instead, Jose and Jorrie drove all the way to Florida to listen to a time-share pitch in return for the chance to buy discounted tickets to Disney World for their target dates in May.
"All in, our cost was right around $3,000 for two weeks at a Disney resort and seven-day Park-Hopper passes," Jorrie said. "That was an incredible deal!"
Throughout the spring, the Sandys clung to hope that the trip could still happen.
But as weeks passed, their reservations for lodging and meals began to fall like dominoes, until finally the whole trip simply collapsed. Disney's park properties have been closed now for weeks due to the pandemic and aren't scheduled to begin reopening until July 11.
By then, some of the discounts that made the trip affordable for the Sandys will have expired, Jorrie said.
The kids are disappointed, of course.
"I'm a little bit sad," said Jaxon. "I wanted to play at the hotel, ride some rides and take some pictures."
Brother, Ian, said he had saved about $400 for Disney souvenirs. Kiera said she had been looking forward to the Slinky Dog Dash ride at Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
"It's been tough on me," Jorrie said. "I don't know what to do."
Their admissions tickets don't expire until January 2022, she said, so the family still has time to regroup. But they may have to look for cheaper lodging or a shorter stay sometime next year, Jorrie said.
Meanwhile, the Sandys are counting their blessings. There are worse things than missing out on a family vacation, they know.
"We are all so disappointed," said Jorrie. "But we know our God is in control, and we have been so blessed to enjoy time home together through this pandemic."
Sometimes, the most magical place on Earth is right inside your front door.
To suggest a human interest story for a future column contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com.