From before she was born to being on her own

Marking the passage time through our (many) trips to Disney

It’s been opined that the only reason I had a child was so I wouldn’t look so weird going to Walt Disney World so often. And while that’s not strictly the case, I won’t deny that she makes a great excuse.

We pile our Disney excuse/laundry helper/dog walker into the plane seat next to us and head to the vacation kingdom whenever we can. But walking through the massive resort, especially during our past few vacations, has become strangely bittersweet – and that’s before I discovered the $17.04 margarita cart in Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. (Note: Yes, seriously.) (Also note: I never told my wife how much it cost, so… surprise, Amy!)

Walt Disney World is a fun, happy place. So maybe it’s just me – half-sentimental, half-sappy and half Disney-obsessive (also half math-idiot) – but there’s a growing element of sadness when we visit there. Looking at the passage of time through the prism of Walt Disney World provides a startling impression of how quickly time passes. Every section we walk by provides memories of trips when we were all a little younger and these years, and vacations, were still ahead of us. 

Our trips started before we were parents. Many Disney vacations ago, my wife and I were walking through Epcot when we sat down on a bench near a group of kids splashing around in a fountain. As we watched them play, we started to dream about starting a family. We wondered if we’d have kids (we did), how many (one), and if we’d take them to Walt Disney World (people who know me are laughing right now).

Every time we walk from Futureworld to the World Showcase, we pause at that bench and remember when our family was just a dream.

Now that’s all in the rearview mirror. Around every corner there are reminders that the years are slipping away. I see my daughter at three-years old, a little scared of the Winnie the Pooh attraction; then she’s five hugging Cinderella; next we’re sitting on a sidewalk waiting for a parade and she’s 10. Now, she’s 14 and on her own.

On our most recent trip, a group of musicians from her high school band traveled there to perform. She asked if she could go off for the day with her friends. Not a big deal, but up to this point, Walt Disney World was our place. I told her, “sure,” but she had to pass a quick test.

“Go over to that booth and order something to eat. Pay for it, pick it up, and then bring it back over here.”

It wasn’t exactly the Kobayashi Maru, but I didn’t want my mugshot to end up in the Orlando Sentinel for abandoning my kid at Disney. Of course, she passed. The friends arrived, we took a few pictures, and she was gone. It felt like a Disney rite of passage. It was just yesterday we were wondering what our future looked like, and now here we were, watching it walk away.

How did we handle it? Fine, really, because frozen drinks at the Mexico pavilion are known to possess magical qualities that soothe such aches. But from there, it was just a short walk to a bench in front of a water fountain where a group of kids splashed and played. 

Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. They go to Walt Disney World a lot. No, like, a lot. Imagine an excessive number of trips to Disney. Now double it. You’re getting close. He’s also the author of the “Mousejunkies” series of books and managing editor of custom publications for McLean Communications.

 

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