I was 9 years old when my family went to Disneyland. My parents saved up for the trip and I spent weeks looking at the printed airline tickets envisioning what the magical world of California was like. That trip was a childhood highlight and helped instill my love of travel.
My own children, ages 10 and 12, have been to Disneyland, Disney World, and Aulani Disney in Hawaii over a dozen times collectively. A few months ago, we even road tripped to Disneyland for Christmas and brought our dog who stayed on-site in a Disney kennel.
Part of our frequent trips is due to me working at a travel company for many years. We took advantage of deals, discounts, and air miles to hopscotch across the Disney destinations. Even last summer when we were on a month-long journey in Europe, the kids saw a sign on a Paris highway for Euro Disney and just assumed we would stop there. (We didn’t, but we thought about it.)
For me, making all these trips is more about re-creating the magic I felt as a kid. A little hokey, maybe, but true. Now that our kids have hit double-digits and our oldest is only months away from being a teenager, we see how quickly their “childhood” is turning into “the years where you were embarrassing.” And after spending three-quarters of their childhood tethered to technology as a workaholic, on this trip I was fully present in the Disney memory making.
It’s getting harder to get the hugs, smiles, stories, and “Hey, Mom’s” that used to be so common. Holding hands is only a method to employ when in a tight crowd or darting across a London street. And I’ve recently been told not to speak to them while in elevators when other people are there or, better yet, don’t speak at all in case someone gets on the elevator. The only acceptable engagement is a quick “Yes” to their endless request of “Can I play on my phone?”
So Disney. Residue of magic still lingers when we’re there. We can all play the game of “Remember when we….?” People watching has added layers now that they’re older that brings both comparison (“Those kids get to drink soda with breakfast”) and compassion (“Did you see the kid with the Make-A-Wish button?”).
But these days, the moments I’m standing in are the ones I’m snapshotting in my memory. As we wait in lines for rides, I see how tall my oldest son is getting. Just past 5 feet tall now, I wonder how much longer it will be while I can still peek over his buzz-cut head. I watched them wake up the other morning with feet hanging over the pullout couch and a pillow in-between their heads for “more private.”
So in these sun-filled days, we’re all a better version of ourselves. Maybe it’s just the sugar high from discovering cinnamon-sugar croissant donuts in Epcot or the mellow nature that follows a full 12 hours of sleep, but there is a special combination of here-and-now that happens each time we come into the House of Mouse. And it’s what will bring us back again next time.
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