Under the orange tree

Elizabeth Donald
7 min readNov 3, 2022

It was my wedding day, and we were gathered in the church for pre-wedding photographs. My bridesmaids seemed a bit a-flutter, so I asked them what they were talking about.

“Who is that guy who looks like Walt Disney?” asked Sara, who should know — she used to be a costumer for the Disney parks.

I couldn’t figure out who she meant, since Walt would have been perfectly welcome at my wedding but was kind of unavailable. They pointed to the lanky guy laughing with my father near the back of the church. Then I burst out laughing.

“That’s my Uncle Brian!” I said.

They laughed, and all agreed that he looked just like the Disney founder. This might have been inspired by the fairytale theme of the wedding, or the fact that they all knew I was a giant Disnerd, or that my son had apparently made the observation to them earlier in the day about Brian’s resemblance to the family patron saint. I had never thought about it before — it was just Uncle Brian, whom I’d known all my life — but once they said it, I couldn’t unsee it. I told him later at the reception, and once he finished laughing, he brought up a picture on his cell phone of his face next to Walt’s, because this happened to him all the time.

Brian is the one on the far right. If you couldn’t tell.

Growing up in Fullerton, Calif., which for the uninitiated is about two suburbs over from Anaheim, the Donald siblings were a close-knit group. My father Ralph, Uncle Rick, Uncle Brian, Aunt Lori. Four of them grew up in the California sun, much of it in the Donald grandparents’ Fullerton tract house with the giant orange tree dominating the back yard over its funny clover groundcover — clover instead of grass, soft and clean enough to walk barefoot each morning during our family visits. We would pick oranges from the tree to squeeze for our breakfast juice, and folks, I’ve never been able to drink the stuff from the carton. It’s just not the same.

I can’t really separate my memories of Uncle Brian from the memories of the entire Donald clan — and clan is the right word, as we are all descended from Scotsmen who were very brave in battle and very good at dying quickly in said battles, according to my father’s research. Not all families remain close when adulthood comes and people scatter, but the Donalds have reunited on a quasi-regular schedule and each time it is as if no…

Elizabeth Donald

Journalist for more than 25 years, freelance writer, editor, photographer, and fiction author. Subscribe at patreon.com/edonald or visit donaldmedia.com.