My first magical encounter with Mickey & company was at a time when the “Happiest Place On Earth” was still undeveloped swamp land in central Florida. I was 10, and could barely contain my excitement at our first big family trip to Disneyland in Anaheim California!I was born during the Mouseketeers era, grew up watching “The Wonderful World of Disney“ and now I was about to get my own set of ears!
The Magic Kingdom was the most magical place I’d ever seen, so it was a no-brainer I would want to share this experience with my own daughter. Sara’s first encounter with Mickey & Co. was on a family vacation to southern California, which of course included a trip to Disneyland. Sara was barely 2 - doesn’t remember it at all!
We tried again 2 years later with a week-long family trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. I have great memories of that trip - seeing the thrill and excitement of Disney through her eyes! Sara, on the other hand, remembers nothing!
The next year I planned a Mother/Daughter trip to WDW during spring break.This trip has VERY vivid memories for both of us, but not what you’d expect from the “Happiest Place On Earth!”
We were having dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom.Crowds were gathering outside the restaurant, waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Sara, being a typical 4-year old was making a mess with coloring paper and asked if she could throw it out. Seeing a garbage can around the corner, I agreed, since I felt I could keep my eye on her. BIG mistake - she darted around the corner and when she didn’t come right back, I went to look for her. She was nowhere in sight! Panic set in, especially since the doors to the restaurant were open, with crowds thickening for the oncoming parade! My eyes wide with fear, I found a manager, told them my 4 1/2 year old was missing, gave them a description and prayed for her return.Within minutes that seemed like an eternity, my precious baby casually walked back to the table, wondering what all the fuss was about!Sara remembers this event VERY clearly!
“I was shredding paper and stuffing it in my pocket and wanted to get rid of it! I asked if I could go around the corner to throw out the paper because it was bothering me. You said, yes, so I went around the corner but couldn’t find the garbage. I went into the bathroom because I figured I’d find one there. Once I got to the bathroom, I thought I should go, so I waited in line. Then I went back to the table, not thinking anything was wrong. When I saw you all freaked out, I freaked out and we were both crying! But then Goofy came over and calmed us down. We finished our dinner and watched the parade like every other normal family!”
The other strong memory I have that Sara doesn’t remember is a fun one. She would only ride the horse with the roses on Cinderella’s Carousel! Forgive me for giving in to this, but we waited in line, letting others go ahead, so she would be first and be able to get on that darned horse! On subsequent trips, I never let her forget this, and have the pictures to prove it!
Our next Disney adventure was the summer I remarried - Sara was 10. We have selective memories here - mine are of a new blended family, enjoying the rides, attractions and characters at this magical theme park.Sara remembers The Lego Store at Downtown Disney, waiting in a LONG line for Splash Mountain and deciding at the last minute she was too scared to ride it, and the queasy feeling my husband and step-son had after riding Mission Space at EPCOT!Needless to say, Sara and I did NOT go on that ride!
Our memories started to gel during the next family trip to WDW. 13 year old Sara was more than willing to ride Space Mountain with me, several times! We got caught up in the pin collection craze, and couldn’t get enough of the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon! We wisely did not partake in “Humunga Kowabunga” and risk a bathing suit wedgie!
We officially made Sara a Disney Princess by celebrating her Sweet 16 at Disney World! I took her and 2 of her “besties” for a long birthday weekend - I don’t know who had more fun!
The true test would be a surprise “Destination Disney” 18th birthday, 10 family members! Could I pull it off? I told her to pack for fun-in-the-sun; as soon as we got to the airport, she knew exactly where we were going, but when she saw the rest of the family at the hotel, she was speechless! Mission accomplished.
I made the decision to take a mother/daughter WDW trip this summer, anticipating how much I would miss Sara when she returned to college after Labor Day.Doing Disney with the almost 20 year old Sara is a much different, yet incredibly fulfilling experience. She’s a great travel buddy, we enjoy the same things and like to make the most of our time, without ending up on the brink of exhaustion!
As I relive these magical vacations, I have a greater appreciation for the family trips of my youth, and the special times spent with my mom.I also understand all too well the emptiness my mother felt as I spread my wings into young adulthood.
As for Sara, regardless of age, she will always be my Disney Princess!