I feel the time has come to divulge a family secret I’ve been keeping for some time. We are Disney people. I am not necessarily proud of this fact but it’s the cold hard truth and I can no longer deny it.
Any lingering doubts that I may have had about our Disneyness were dispelled last week when we flew to Orlando to take in all four Disney theme parks. When my older sons were little, we frequented Disney with frightening regularity. Back then it met my short list of vacation requirements–it was close, it was easy, and it was a destination with changing tables in the bathrooms and kids meals on the menus. However, after our last visit there eight years ago, I declared that my Disney days were officially over. I felt it was time to move on to different vacation venues. There were a lot of places in this big world to see, like Europe and the rest of this country. Alas, those other destinations did not necessarily work for us as a group. Individually yes, collectively not so much. On those other vacations we seemed to disagree about everything, from food to activities.
My youngest child, who was around six when we last visited Disney, pulled the “I don’t remember Disney” guilt trip on us and, for a long time, I resisted. Little by little he wore us down and, last spring, I suggested one last Disney trip to the family. I figured the boys were getting older and we might not have many more opportunities to vacation together. Lo and behold, they all agreed. I organized the trip with military precision, because if any of you have ever been to Disney during Christmas you will understand that throngs of people will also share your idea of spending the holidays with Mickey and Minnie. We booked lunch reservations six months in advance and plotted out our routes in each of the parks.
And then a magical thing happened. We all woke up early on our first morning in Orlando, put the lanyards that held our tickets around our necks and set off to the parks. There was no fighting. There was no hostility. Even my oldest son, who can be somewhat cynical and overly analytical, was transformed. He celebrated his birthday while we were in the Magic Kingdom and allowed us to purchase a Mickey birthday hat for him. He wore his hat with pride the entire day and even put it on again when we went out to dinner. I recalled that he had always been happy on our trips to Disney and enjoyed meeting the characters and eating Mickey waffles for breakfast.
Since we no longer have young children and no daughters, we were able to skip the kiddie rides and princess stuff and focus on the roller coasters and attractions made for people over 44 inches tall. I have to disclose that although I meet the height requirement, motion sickness and claustrophobia now prevent me from going on many of the rides my family enjoys. But I do love walking around the park in the warm sun and seeing my family happy. Disney is immaculately kept and beautifully designed. As a bonus, although I’ve definitely packed on a few pounds recently, I feel positively svelte at Disney. And one of the best new things Disney has added since we were last there is a Starbucks in each of the parks.
Before we went on our vacation, I ran into a woman I knew at the grocery store who told me her family was going on safari during the Christmas break. I told her we would be going on a safari as well, but in Animal Kingdom, which is almost the same thing. I think if I have learned one lesson at this point in my life, it’s that you have to go with what works, even if it is a little embarrassing and not terribly exotic. I feel a little freer having admitted this publicly. My kids will travel to many far away and interesting places in their lives. My oldest son is currently planning a summer trip to Disney Tokyo with his girlfriend and I am excited for them.
A few days after returning home our youngest son announced with a smile that he is already starting to forget this trip. Even though we had a great time, I’m not falling for his ploy again. At least not until I’m a grandparent and it is time to take the newest little ones to Orlando.
Bogart and Bergman may always have Paris but our family will always have Disney.