Everybody knows I love Disney. Some people look at me strangely with the side eye when I get on a roll talking Disney. Some people think Disney is for kids. Some people – my Disney peeps – get it! Although I truly love all things Disney, my heart will always belong to Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, actually to the Magic Kingdom Park. Very few people know how my Disney loving ways started and how it all began. It has been a really, really long love affair that started in the 70’s. Yes, the 1970’s. Over 40 years ago. When there was nothing else at Walt Disney World Resort except the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Imagine that! Check out those rates – starting at $29 per night!
I have vague memories of my mother going to Hawaii sometime around 1960 with my Aunt Bea. I remember her making all the arrangements to have me and my sister looked after and off she went for what seemed like an eternity. During that trip, either on the way there or the way home, she spent 2 days on a stop-over in California and visited Disneyland®. I remember her coming home from that trip with bags full of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland things and remember her reminiscing about that trip for a long time. It seemed she talked very little about her time in Hawaii but talked endlessly about her Disneyland visit.
When we were growing up, my Mom was always the “fun” Mom in the neighborhood. She would fill the tub with snow when we were young if she thought it was too cold for us to play outside. As we got older, she was always the first Mom in the neighborhood to take a whole troop of kids somewhere. Then, suddenly it all changed – divorce. Mom had to go to work. Mom worked 6 days a week, was tired and sad.
And then in the summer in 1973, after a few years of working and worrying, saving and planning, my single mother drove two teens (with an aunt and 2 cousins) from New Jersey to Florida in an old Studebaker. She had great memories of her visit to Disneyland in California and wanted to show us the “new Disney in Florida.” The road trip itself was long and an adventure. But once we arrived – so many things changed.
What stands out the most in my mind about this very first trip to the Magic Kingdom was seeing my Mom smile and laugh for the first time in a really long time. The corny jokes on The Jungle Cruise and in Country Bear Jamboree made her laugh. The constant over and over of the “it’s a small world” song made her smile and soaring on Dumbo the Flying Elephant made her giggle. The Magic Kingdom gave me back MY MOM. My mom who had spent the last few years working, saving, struggling and being sad was back to being the laughing, smiling, giggling like a little kid, MOM!
From the moment we entered the Magic Kingdom she smiled and she laughed. She enjoyed every single moment of every single day at the Magic Kingdom. From that day forward I was a huge Disney fan. Walt Disney World has changed over the years. Walt Disney World has grown and expanded. Although I love all the other parks, the Magic Kingdom is my “special” place. I remember that first trip each time I walk into the Magic Kingdom. Each time I walk down the middle of Main Street U.S.A., my mind goes back to that very first trip in 1973 when my mom smiled, giggled and laughed. My first trip with friends at 18, my first trip with each of my children and my first trip with my granddaughter – all special trips for sure – but none of them compare to that very first trip with my mom in 1973.
I recently visited Walt Disney World with my kids, my granddaughter and my mom, now in her 80’s. The first day of our trip when we entered the Magic Kingdom and I walked down the middle of Main Street U.S.A. with my mom in her scooter, I looked over and I saw my 1973 mom. The 1973 mom that wanted her two daughters to see the magic of Disney so long ago. She was smiling and laughing with my granddaughter the way she did with me on that very first trip. She was still smiling and laughing because of Disney all these years later! So – tell me – when did your Disney love affair begin?