New Year's at Epcot

by Patrick B. McGrath from Chicago, IL
Jan 3, 15

I was a shy, nerdy guy in grade school and consequently, the butt of many jokes. I was determined that high school was going to be different. 

So when I got there, I decided to do something that I had never done before – I signed up for band. It turned out that I had a knack for music. By the time I got to senior year, I was a pretty good player. But the best part of band was that we took trips. For senior year, we went to Disney World over winter break. The plan was to spend New Year’s Eve at Epcot. 

We spent the days leading up to New Year’s Eve playing concerts, marching in parades, and touring the area. 

But on New Year’s, just as planned, we were taken to Epcot and given – a dream for a 17-year-old and his friends – we were given a free day. 

A group of us decided that we would hang out together. 

As the day progressed, we met up with kids from another band. 
Eventually, most of the kids I knew paired off, and I was left with the band we had just met – which was fine with me. I was 17 – there were new girls to get to know. It was shaping up to be a great day.  

And then, as we were walking around, we passed a line of people waiting to get food, and in that line, standing with her parents, was the most stunning girl I had ever seen in my life. Redder than red hair, pale skin, and freckles. She was a Chicago Irish boy’s dream. I saw her for maybe 10 seconds and then we were past her. 

For the rest of the day we explored everything the park had to offer. I was having fun with the kids from the other band, but, as it got closer and closer to midnight, I decided I wanted to ring in the New Year with people I knew. We had all agreed to meet in front of the big golf ball. I wished everyone a Happy New Year and headed off. 

Moving through the crowd was difficult. I could see my destination, but I couldn’t get through the mob. Those hundred yards might as well have been a mile. 

With midnight minutes away, I realized I was going to spend New Year’s crammed against a bunch of sweaty people who I had no relationship with whatsoever. This was, frankly, going to suck. Why didn’t I stay with the kids from the other band? Why did I leave the kids from my band in the first place? Was my life always going to be ruled by the notion that the grass is greener on the other side? 

There was music and searchlights, lasers and fireworks. It was all very, well, Disney is probably the best way to describe it. The excitement built, until the cheering crowd finally began counting down the New Year. They started at 20. 

And I stood there thinking, “Well, this does suck.” 

The crowd was screaming. 

“10, 9, 8 …”  

And I turned around, and my whole body froze. 


Standing right in front of me was the beautiful red haired, freckled girl. 


I swear to you, if I had the ability to build my own statue to beauty, it would not have come close to the girl standing in front of me. 


I took a deep breath. I said, “Hi.”


The girl turned, looked at me and said, ”Hi,” back. And here is the amazing part – she didn’t turn away – she looked right into my eyes.


“You know,” I said “it is tradition to give someone a kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve.” 


“OK.” she whispered.


And while everyone around us yelled Happy New Year, we kissed. It was the greatest kiss that I have ever had in my entire life. It lasted at least two or three seconds. Our right hands touched, our lips touched, and then it was over. 

We held hands for a few more seconds, and then her parents turned around to wish her a Happy New Year. To my great luck they had been kissing and missed our little romance. Probably a good thing. Probably safe to say most dads do not like to see their daughters kissing random strangers in a crowd at Epcot. 

I wished her a Happy New Year, and she did the same to me, and then her parents told her it was time to get going. One moment she was there and then, like the fireworks that were exploding in the air, she was gone. 

I have no idea what her name was. I have never seen her again. But, I have thought of her now and then,¬ mostly during those points of my life when I have been single, and when I do, I wonder – what would have happened if we had gotten to know each other. 

I made it back to my band friends and we headed back to the hotel. The rest of the trip was a blast. Eventually we returned to cold and snowy Chicago. I didn’t tell them what happened that night – I just said that I got stuck in the crowd. 

But I know she is out there somewhere and I wonder, if every now and then, she thinks about me too.