So often I’m asked why I go to Walt Disney World so often. Why I don’t travel somewhere else. Sometimes I offer simple reasons: It’s easy to eat gluten-free, it’s fun, it’s relaxing (Yes, I find Disney relaxing!). There are so many reasons. But my reasons go so much deeper than that.
Disney is a part of who I am.
I’m not sure how old I was the first time we went to Disney. I’m not sure if we went two or three times before we moved to Florida. What I do know is each year (for how many years?) our family piled into a van and drove to Florida, to Disney World. Don’t feel too bad for us, my parents had some pretty lush vans complete with TVs and Nintendo before those things were common. Over all, it was a pretty comfortable drive. I loved it!
We drove day and night while my dad wove stories about family and friends I’d never met, or that I’d long since forgotten. I listened to the hum of our wheels on pavement as the stars floated overhead. I daydreamed. I listened to songs about adventure, love, and family. I saw so much during those drives, our family loved so much.
During a time when life was busy and my mom was in school in a different city, my family made the time to drive to Florida. Many people might have flown, but those drives meant the world to me.
Many people don’t know the thrill, the feeling of elation, that happens when you drive under the Walt Disney World Sign. Imagine the feeling of a kid who’s been in a van for three days: Three days of talking about Disney. Three days of thinking about Disney. Three days of wondering what to expect. Three days of excitement as we dreamed about our favourite rides and shows. Three days, and we were almost there. Three days and we saw those words that welcomed us to The Most Magical Place on Earth. In a few more moments we’d be there. A few more moments and magic would happen. A few more moments and we’d hear the words all Disney World guests know and love, “Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas”.
When we drove under that sign, Magic happened.
My parents had a unique way of exploring Disney. I remember many times we all spent together as a family. But mostly I remember those times my older sister and I explored Disney on our own. My older sister was my favourite person in the world, so this was a huge deal! She was four years older, so at home our worlds were very different, but at Disney we were equal.
We used to try to scare people in the haunted mansion, waiting until just the right moment to scream. Now I think about how so many people must have hated us lol, but we had so much fun. We’d run through the caves on Tom Sawyer’s Island. We didn’t always go in the entrance, or out the exit the correct direction. We often waited, hidden around a bend, only to jump out and yell ‘Boo!’ at each other. Sometimes we accidentally scared the wrong person. Oops! We’d apologize, then come together giggling. Silly. Fun.
We’d wait in lines and laugh about so many things, tease each other, and have a great time. We had a routine. We’d grab an atomic fireball from the candy barrels outside Snow White’s Scary Adventure, then we’d head to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. While we waited in line, we’d try to eat the fireballs without taking them out of our mouths. Of course we couldn’t!
I remember the first time I was able to keep my eyes open on Space Mountain. I remember the times my sister and I dashed through crowds to get to the next ride, and the times we slowed down to watch the parade.
Even as an adult, I remember those days at Disney as the most magical, most wonderful days. My older sister was so much fun, and she always looked out for me. We’d take turns choosing a ride. Oh the number of times one of us said, “I want to ride Space Mountain, (or some other ride) but it’s on the other side of the park. We’d better ride the Skyway to get there.” Followed by an hour long wait to get on the Skyway. Of course as soon as we got on the Skyway, the other person would point out that it was a ride, and now was their turn to choose. We both did it. We both laughed.
These are all small, silly memories. Memories that fade over time. But just as Grand Pappy said in Frozen, we can take the memories, but leave the fun. I don’t remember what rides we rode, or when. I don’t remember the lines or specific details. But I remember the fun, I remember the laughter, I remember the love.
I have few pictures of those times. We were children having fun. Who wanted to stop and take pictures when there was so much to do? Details fade, but the magic, laughter, and fun grow stronger each year.
Every time I take my children to Disney, I remember those times. The love my family had for each other was heightened at Disney. Every time I bring my children to Disney, it’s really me bringing them home. It’s really me telling my parents that I love them and letting my sister know she means the world to me.
Disney isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling. When you’re in that magical world of make believe, those feelings take on a new meaning. Happy memories chase away the weight of the world and my children feel more love and magic, just as I did as a child.
When we’re not in Disney, we do the best we can to create the feelings of magic and love at home. We take inspiration from our favourite characters, “What would Tianna do?” We look at pictures and laugh about our adventures. When we’re not in Disney, we’re thinking about Disney. Disney is Home.