When I was somewhere around Des’ age, I was given a stuffed Donald Duck as a birthday or holiday gift. It fast became my favorite stuffed animal ever, and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t still have “him” placed lovingly in one of my drawers, and out of the reach of grubby, tiny hands. Donald endured many injustices during our long courtship – he was puked on (it came out in the wash), had apple juice dripped onto him (the stain is still there), and had a series of “sick days” in which he developed high fevers and had to be carried around all day like a baby. Nestled in the crook of my arms, just like he should have been. My baby.
Donald also traveled up and down the northeast seaboard, many times over, and even went to college with me, where he was hidden away from my crazy clown roommates. He also lived shortly in San Francisco, and now resides in Northampton, MA.
He’s retired, you see.
I have always felt like Donald Duck is my kindred spirit. We’d just get each other if we met in real life and he was, you know, real and all. It was always more about him than it was the Disney princesses, although they weren’t as popular in 1984 as they are now. And I did grow up to seek having Disney princess hair, a feat I believe I have somewhat accomplished over time.
I mean, am I right or am I right? (ok, ok, this was professionally done and totally windswept by the time this photo was taken.)
And now here, tomorrow – by the time you read this, I will be in The Magic Kingdom again. And I can’t help remembering my own three times there, at three different ages, and wondering what it might be like for my kids this time and, in the future.
– I went when I was four and my sister was six. My father had just passed away earlier that summer and maybe this was meant as a distraction for us all. Like Scarlet, I was confused by geography and location and since my grandparents usually lived in Fort Lauderdale, but here we were at a hotel in Orlando, I called it a “different Florida.” And it was. I was most captivated by the Peter Pan ride. It was closed when I went again at age 11, but I did ride it when I was 19 and it was just as magical as my four-year-old brain remembered. And isn’t that nice? When your heartened memories still ring true in adulthood.
– I went when I was 11, as I mentioned above. My sister was 13. I honestly think we were just very cranky. I was petrified of anything outer space and she was petrified by anything underwater so we had a true blast at Epcot. Nothing like big kids crying on rides, right? Pretty sure I had a meltdown even looking at the giant golf ball thing. Disney meltdowns, Dana?
– Lastly, I went when I was 19. It was in the summer and about 100 degrees with 90-100% humidity. I walked myself to the front row of the splash deck at SeaWorld, opened up my arms and said, “Get me, Shamu. Just have at me!” And he/she splashed the heck out of me. I liked it. At the Magic Kingdom, I loved Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan’s Flight. That trip was maybe the last time I saw my grandparents (pictured with me below). The whole world felt ominous to me during our time there, and I wonder if I already knew their end was near? We went to Universal Studios and at the CityWalk, I found a funky necklace for my then boyfriend. It was made of hemp but had metal spikes. Sort of hippie/metal? He loved it. Years after we broke up, he lost the necklace. I went back to Orlando in my 20’s, but not back to Disney World. We walked through CityWalk Universal and even though it had been years, I looked for that necklace vendor. I found her and there was just one left of that particular necklace. I was a romantic and even though it was probably wrong for many reasons, I bought it for him and sent it. I had intended for him to have it and maybe there was a part of me that wanted him back? The world will never know.
What is the best age to go to Disney World? Well, circumstances will change outcomes. I always thought six or seven might be best, but the time to go is also right now when you can, and if it happens again when we get down the road a bit more, it will be an awesome bonus. I’ve been feeling like I’m revisiting my own childhood, and also making my heart heal a bit more.
Isn’t that kinda what parenting is?