He follows us wherever we go. The hotel, the airport, the amusement parks, historic monuments and even rest stops along the way to our destination. Sometimes he even follows us home. He’s a master of disguise, sometimes showing up as a tree, a flowering bush or just a simple spider plant. And his name is Fern.

It started as a joke. After our second trip to Disneyworld with the girls we had it all figured out. Want to get a picture with a character? Stand in line. Then, after 15 minutes of anticipation, you’ll get to the front of the line only to be told that it’s time for Pluto to take a break and “he’ll be back in 15 minutes”. And so Fern was born.

Now Fern doesn’t quite have all the qualities you’d expect of a mainline character like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. He doesn’t have his own show, a clothing line or feature stories, but that’s a good thing. Fern also doesn’t have a line and he’s never too tired to pose for a picture. The girls claim it’s just me hiding behind a bush, but then again you can never tell from the pictures – all you see is a bush with two hands extending from either side. Gracie says Fern even has a ring like mine. I argue that it just looks like my ring – after all, he’s probably married too. Maybe her name is Ficus.

After awhile Fern developed quite a fan base. We have pictures of the girls posing with Fern in front of fountains, next to rides and even next to Minney Mouse. After all, everyone has pictures with a stuffed mouse, but how many kids get a picture with a potted yucca plant? And somewhere there’s another family sharing in our distorted tradition because they too have a picture of their kids standing with Fern while Minney Mouse looks on with her hands on her hips.

You’ll be amazed at all the places you can find Fern. He’s especially popular at National Parks, but will occasionally even make an appearance indoors in the lobby of a hotel or at bus stops when we have a little extra time. And although sometimes his hugs come with a little extra sap, he’s never too busy to stop and pose with the girls. I just hope that if we ever travel out west he never takes the form of a cactus – for both the girls’ sake and mine.

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