Before reading this post, it is highly recommended you go back and read Once Upon a Treehouse. Thank you.
And now, it’s time for a little story, shrouded in the purest of truth:
Once upon a time, there was an internally beautiful princess, her name was Kimmie. Princess Kimmie fell in love with an Evil Queen who appeared to her weekly on the magic flickering image shaping box known to the modern world as a television. Regina, as she was called, seemed to embody everything that Princess Kimmie had struggled with in her life. From the darkest of abusive battles to the need to be loved and free to have her own life. Kimmie had never connected to a fictional character on the level she did Regina before. Queen Regina seemed to just encompass her fight. It gave her hope. If Regina could survive, she could too.
On the other side of the mirror, Kimmie naturally became inspired by her Queen’s portrayer, Lana Parrilla. Lana has a sassy side, but is otherwise the polar opposite of her regal alter-ego. She exists in love and the light of the sun. Her beauty is one unmatched in the world of entertainment. She is always paying attention. She is always grateful. She is always reaching out to her supporters whether they are lost beyond a shred of light or celebrating some sort of milestone. She is there and she beams with pride for the safe haven that she has created, just by sharing her soul with the universe. It gave Kimmie strength. If Lana was out there doing something beautiful, Kimmie could be something beautiful too.
One evening, Princess Kimmie went to a land which encased more worlds than can spin on the axis of this living planet. She dropped a penny into a magical wishing well, but before it had the chance to hit the cascading abyss of water below, she made a wish:
I wish I may, I wish I might – have the wish I pray for tonight. A wish so deep, my heart does ache, but if it is granted, it shall renew my strength. I’m wishing, dear well, that one day I may meet Lana Parrilla and thank her for all of the ways she has impacted my life.
Those words, as soft as they came, she left them behind in that place and then walked away in silence. And as just as the well promised, when you wish from such a protected place in your heart, your wish will come true in time. It did – but what is a fairytale without a little conflict? There is always one last climatic battle before the happily ever after.
The stage was set: The Once Upon a Time cast would be appearing at PaleyFest for the second year in a row. Tickets were acquired. A letter was written to Lana explaining last year’s situation, so she’d know Kimmie would be there and hoped to safely get to her to meet her. Kimmie’s sisters purchased plane tickets from across the country and across the world to be there to hold her hand. The dream was happening.
In the months before it would come to be, Princess Kimmie had been cloaked in darkness. Due to circumstances out of her control, her body and spirit began to shut down. She did not get out of bed for any reason. She did not eat. She did not talk to anyone. She was losing faith in life by the second, searching for light but only hitting dead end after dead end. She couldn’t move, curled in a corner feeling like a wounded animal unable to tell when the days would change. She didn’t even see the point in trying to live.
One morning, the sun came up and with it, in bounded Kimmie’s sisters, pulling her from her beastly hole and transforming her into the princess that she was. The day had come upon them and the dream was steps from reality. Faith was emerging again, for she was in safe hands, and an angel was just feet in front of her illuminating a stage. And now, Princess Kimmie will take over the storytelling until the happily ever after:
The joy in my heart seemed to refill during the Paley panel. My big sister cuddled with me as I cried through the episode that was screened and being there with my sisters and watching Lana enjoying every second interacting with her cast mates and Evil Regals gave me the smallest bit of hope. And then the panel ended and whoosh went the crowd. There was no way I was going to get myself safely to her in my wheelchair since it was worse than the year before. All hope was gone, but I was strangely okay with that. My sisters on the other hand, were not. My big sister sat back and held my hand while my little sisters forged the sea of people, not to get to Lana, but to get to someone they could explain this situation to who could make something happen. A knight in shining amour said he would see what he could do and just like that, we waited. After awhile, it wasn’t looking good inside, as Lana had left the stage so we went outside to wait. We were stuck at the back of a giant crowd of people, and my sisters’ hope started to flee, but their brains were still turning. They went back inside to find the person they spoke to before, and a few minutes later I got a text message that read: “Come inside. We are trying.”
My big sister and I walked through the busy theatre lobby and back into the house. It was completely empty except for my sisters and the two people they had been coordinating with. We all gathered by the door, stage right, and waited. I thanked my sisters and the staff for what they had done for me, and let them know I would be completely okay if it didn’t happen. One of the staff wouldn’t accept that and she told me, “Oh, we’re gonna try to make this happen right now.” She left the room. I started to get out of my chair, because I wanted to be standing for Lana if it happened. I hadn’t even gotten halfway up when the door opened again…
Lana walked in the room, looked right at me, and I went from zero to snot flinging-Oprah-ugly cry in less than two seconds. I don’t usually cry when I meet people like that, it’s only happened one other time. Every fight that I’d gone through, all the pain that she’d helped me heal, everything my sisters did to get me this moment just hit me like a ton of bricks. I was bawling my eyes out. I heard Lana say my crying was contagious and I was going to make her cry, and I’m told everyone in the room turned their backs and couldn’t watch so we could cry together and so I could pull it together. I stood up for her. I couldn’t speak. Everyone introduced me to her. She tried so hard to try and have a meaningful conversation with me, and all I could do was thank her for taking the time to come back and spend time with me, especially since she had probably been ready to leave. Everything I wanted to say, the words just wouldn’t come to me. My emotions were too overwhelming. I was just holding onto the moment so tightly, I didn’t want to let go and my brain just checked out. We took a bunch of photos together and then I went to sit back down in my chair. Lana insisted on helping me and then said something that has been repeating in my head since the words came out of her mouth:
“I just want you to be comfortable.”
Me too. I don’t know, something about the way she said it just triggered something in my heart and relit my fire, faith and determination. She gave my arm a squeeze, thanked me for coming, for waiting for her, for being an Evil Regal and said it was nice to meet me. I returned all of those sentiments and just watched her walk out. As we exited the theater there were group hugs and the tears started again and continued for the rest of the night.
I was flying. It’s been five days now, and I still haven’t come down from the cloud I’m perched on. It was a fairytale dream come true. I now have five angels, and it seems fitting to have a whole hand to hold when I am walking in this life.
To Lana: You are completely selfless. You are everything beautiful and inspiring in this universe. You have no idea what you’ve done for me, and since I couldn’t find the words at the time, I will be sending you a letter soon. Just… thank you. Thank you for sharing those super raw moments with me. Thank you for changing everything. More than you even realize. I will never forget this and I promise if we ever meet again I won’t make you cry. Please don’t ever change. The person that you are inspires so many of us and we love you from the bottom of our hearts.
To my sisters – Jamie, Annie, Jillian and Janice: I… I don’t know what I did to deserve any of you. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for all that you do and have done for me. You teach me what love means, and my love for you knows no limits. Thank you. For all of this.
To the Paley Center and Saban Theatre staff: You went above and beyond anything I ever expected and you didn’t have to do any of it. You could have refused anything we asked, but instead you did everything and MADE my dream come true. I appreciate it more than anything. These are the reasons PaleyFest and Paley panels are one of my favorite things in the world. You recognize passion for television, of the impact it sometimes has on people, and I always walk away with my life forever changed. Thank you.
Just… thank you, Life.