Disney World

Epcot

WaltDisneyB

Fox and I, just the two of us, were on a bus going from The Port Orleans French Quarter Disney Resort to Epcot, where we would meet up with Jeremy and my 10 year old nephew Charlie who had just spent 45 minutes in line at The Seven Dwarves Mine Train in Magical Kingdom while I was back at the hotel napping with Fox after a full day at Animal Kingdom. (If that sounds like a lot to pack into one sentence it is… and only a glimpse of how much action we were packing into our week at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.) Fox was strapped to me in his Ergo carrier and we were sitting next to a little boy with red hair and a freckled face named Kyle (his Scottish accent made it sound more like “Kah-ell”) – I learned he was eight years old and that this was his 4th time to visit Disney World. I had actually seen Kyle out by the pool earlier that day – dancing with much enthusiasm and without any self-consciousness to The Macarena, The YMCA, and a few other great classics that come with coordinated dance moves. I thought “I need to be more like that kid.” Kyle was sweet – Fox would grab his hand and chew on his fingers – and he let him. Apparently Kyle has a one year old nephew and is used to it. I also learned that Kyle rode the Tower of Terror when he was four years old but just really started riding roller coasters this year.

This freckled little redhead from the other side of the pond had been to Disney World four times in just eight short years. With that, I started counting my own Disney trips:

Summer 1989 – My first time to Walt Disney World. My family made the 20+ hour pilgrimage in our family station wagon without air conditioning. I had just turned seven years old, I wore my hair in an un-ironic side pony, and pretty much cried the whole time because I was hot, tired, and my little flamingo legs just couldn’t seem keep up.

Summer 1991 – My second time to road trip to Disney World with my family. I think most of my formative Disney memories come from this trip. I remember being obsessed with the lizards hanging outside of Thunder Mountain (real! wild! lizards! just out in the open!), riding Space Mountain and becoming hooked on roller coasters, and decompressing in the Carousel of Progress – still very much a favorite. I remember drifting off in my moms arms in the air conditioned Tiki Room while boring-ass animatronic birds serenaded me to slumber. I ate my weight in Churros and rocked a sailor cap with my name embroidered next to Mickey mouse on it.

Summer 2002 – I actually forgot about this Disney trip until writing this. When I was around 20 years old my ex-husband and I drove out to San Diego – he promised it was the coolest place in the world – and LA. All I remember about this trip was getting a burrito at a taco stand, spending hours in a huge record store, and visiting Disneyland. While at Disneyland I was embarrassed because my husband kept cussing around small children and going out of his way to find a designated smoking area every thirty minutes. While I’m sure we had a good time, the rest is pretty much blocked from my memory.

Fall 2008 – I was now divorced from my ex-husband who liked to smoke and cuss around small children in the happiest place on Earth and had been seeing Jeremy for right at a year. We went to Disneyworld with my whole family – including my brother who flew down from NYC with his first burlesque-dancing girlfriend who introduced me to things like raw food, fixed gear bicycles, and the power of Arnica for soothing bruises and sore muscles. We shared a room with them and I remember she lined the air conditioner with no less than 100 bottles of vitamins. We made fun of the dorky couples wearing bride and groom mouse ears and pretended like we were in an almost famous band when the ride operators would ask us who we were. Barack Obama won the election on this trip (we had sent in absentee ballots) and just a couple days later, after asking permission of my parents and them warning him that I was a handful, Jeremy proposed to me under the fireworks at the Magical Kingdom castle. I said yes. My brother and his girlfriend bought us bride and groom mouse ears that we wound up wearing the rest of the trip.

On this trip I reminisced over the lizards outside Thunder Mountain. I saw Mickey and his friends. I enjoyed the irony in the Carousel of Progress now that we had surpassed the “future” of interactive kitchens and virtual reality. But I also saw the crowds. Fighting families and crying children. The endless sea of strollers left me questioning why anyone would bring a child who couldn’t even walk, let alone create concrete memories, to Disney World. I could see the bolts holding the rides together. In some ways it felt as if the magic had turned into a machine.

Fall 2014 – Just six years later we’re back at Disney World with my whole family and this time with my nine month old baby. I explain to my friends who think I’m going to Disney World for Fox’s sake that he’s just along for the ride – and that really, most rides he’ll be hanging out with my 68 year old dad under a shady tree near the gift shop. But I was surprised at how many rides Fox could go on – and over the course of the week I realized how many memories, even if it’s on a cellular level, Fox was making.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:
• My dad wears coveralls, which are trendy amongst old men who like to fish in East Texas, but leave him feeling like an outcast at places like Disney World. So I convinced my whole family to surprise my dad by wearing red coveralls (I’ll post this photo to my Instagram just as soon as I find my phone – which I’m always misplacing).
• It turns out the singing birds in the Tiki Room aren’t actually that boring. Holding my sleepy baby in The Tiki Room was one of my favorite moments.
• Riding Expedition Everest five times in a row with Jeremy
• The very best moment happened as we were leaving Animal Kingdom and we spotted Thumper and his lady friend doing a meet and greet. There was no line and it was clear they were wrapping up – we almost didn’t stop but decided Fox might like it. Well, it turned into a bit of a bunny, bunny, Fox three-way and probably the best moment of Fox’s life so far.
• Watching a mini-film about Walt Disney with my dad and Fox. As a creative entrepreneur it inspired me to create something that will evolve and grow even after I’m gone.

So there were crowds and seas of strollers, yes. And it was hot. And we pretty much lived on jalapeno cheese pretzels – which in theory sounds awesome but in practicality left me feeling more and more sluggish by the day. I could see fighting families and lethargic “cast members” as Disney likes to call its staff. I could see the machine but more than ever I could see the magic.

  1. Margie

    This. I have never been and I’ve been fantasizing take my 2-year old and 2-year old niece. Thank you.

  2. shelly

    i saw the pic on instagram and could not believe my eyes! that is so awesome your whole family dressed up! my mom used to make my two sisters and i matching dresses for such occasions, but the boys never got in on it! you must be really persuasive 😉

  3. Jen

    I’ve had a few Disney trips like yours: as a child frightened by the sight of Pluto, as a teenager embarrassed by my younger sister walking around with her invisible dog leash, and last year with my 4 year old, finally seeing, feeling, and believing in that magic.

    Its a place that exhausts you in the best of ways. Despite the heat, the cranky children, and your tired feet, you know you’re being delivered an all-encompassing experience that will be a marker in your life. I think its awesome that Fox’s first trip is with his whole family. He will love seeing that photo of you all in red overalls.

  4. Deb Charlap

    “Thumper and his lady friend doing a meet and greet…” I had a whole different image in mind for a moment there!

    Beautiful stories, Kathleen ~ I love the bolts and the shifting perspective between mechanism/magic.

  5. Becca

    What a nice post, thanks for sharing. Disney is very important to my husband’s family so I’ve married into it and even started to enjoy it. My husband is daydreaming of the day we take our daughter, she’s 18 months old so I figure it’s too soon. Last time we were there I was 20 weeks pregnant with her and even though I couldn’t do many rides I was so happy picturing taking my baby back one day 🙂

  6. Elisa Leichty

    I don’t even know why, but this post made me tear up a little bit. Thanks for sharing your sweet moments Kathleen.

  7. Mo

    I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this. I’m a big fan of pretty much all things Disney, and I feel like a lot of people (read: designers) treat Disney World with a “ho-hum, too good for this” attitude. It is a place of creativity, and when you learn more about Walt, his vision, his passion…it is so inspiring to be wrapped up in that world. And it’s a darn tootin’ good time, too.

    Thanks for making it cool to be a fan of Disney.

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