“The woman in the box is wrong!”
After turning into the gatehouse of the third Disney World Resort, my mother decided that Siri should take the fall for the navigation error.
Since 1979, I have walked through the gates of the Magic Kingdom—my tiny hand in my parents’ and my stomach full of flutters.
Here is my account of doing Disney as a grown-up with my parents, during a visit as part of the TravelingMom writers’ retreat.
10:02 am: We arrive at the Boardwalk Hotel already worn out from the arguing over where we had been going at a speed of 15 mph for the last 10 miles. I sit in silent protest in the back seat of the car. Emotionally my age has gone from 38 to 13.
11:30 am: In the lobby, the hotel staff is a breath of fresh air. Our MagicBands are waiting for us in vibrant colors and customized with our names.
11:42 am: Against my urging and advice for a wardrobe change before heading out into the park, my parents are wearing the wrong clothes for the weather. They have been in Florida for over 30 years, so while they would be considered nearly-native to the habitat, dark jeans, long-sleeved shirts that don’t breathe, and leather knock-off Keds are not the way to go when the high is 96 degrees and the humidity is even higher. We didn’t get far before stopping.
11:57 am: Pop seems concerned about getting back into the hotel room and getting a FastPass, but now that we know that the bands weren’t short-circuited in the sink, he is blown away at the technology after he taps it to the golden-topped pole with the engraved Mickey ears to enter EPCOT.
It takes a few minutes to convince my parents that MagicBands have your room key, park tickets, FastPasses, Disney Dining Reservations, credit information for purchases, etc. I give them my own pass since they own a five-year-old flip phone. They look at the bands with hesitance and skepticism. They love the bands in spite of my mother’s new conspiracy theory about technology as a whole.
12:02 pm: I am in a sweat over more than the heat. With our FastPass times looming, we duck into the Rose and Crown in the World Showcase. The air conditioning and cool pints of frothy beer take off the edge. The stress and agitation I am having slowly subsides and I realize that I still have a few things to learn from my parents about slowing down and enjoying what’s around you.
1:10 pm: By the skin of our teeth, we make our FastPass window at the entrance of Soarin’. The popular attraction provides enough exhilaration for these baby boomers without sending them to the ER.
1:30 pm: Surprise reservations at the San Angel Inn Restaurant located inside Mexico. This place holds a special memory for us, and I hope to recreate those years while dining under faux stars, an erupting volcano and the magic of lighting effects. We exchange stories of yesteryear, and then Pop drops a medical issue bomb on me, and 2 margaritas later we’re off to Spaceship Earth.
2:48 pm: Me and Pop ride together as Judi Dench shares the history of the human civilization. I love being transported back in time on the ride and to my childhood.
3:38 pm: We make our way back to the hotel. Turns out, that was all my parents (who are near 70) can handle in one day. I am respecting my mother’s wishes to withhold her exact age.
Back at the Boardwalk Hotel room, my mother is watching Judge Judy and Pop is people watching from our balcony. Those that did not grow up going to Disney often ask me why I am so sentimental about it. Here’s my answer: It’s the one place that my entire family looked forward to spending time at and with each other. And the place as a whole has remained unchanged.
The same Space Mountain that my Pop took me on when I was 7 and my heart was nearly beating out my chest, is the same one that I took my son on for the first time. It’s the same Pirates of the Caribbean that my brother would dare me to run my hands through the water (full disclaimer: Disney prohibits doing this and it’s really dangerous) and the first attraction that my grandmother wanted to visit.
It’s the same Haunted Mansion that I got stuck riding with my four-year-old screaming cousin and got stopped on while riding with my four-year-old daughter. It’s the one vacation that (albeit local for us) that I would stay up late at night talking about with my sister for weeks, once the news leaked out. And it’s the same EPCOT that I walked with my parents as an eight-year-old and thirty-eight-year-old daughter.
The person that said you can never go home again, never grew up going to Disney.
Note: My family and I were guests of Disney for the TravelingMom Retreat.