"There is a place where castle spires gleam in the night sky, where fantasy is real and wishes come true, where happily ever after happens every day. There is a place where magic lives."
On Valentine's Day night several months ago, my mom and dad walked into our house with four little gift bags, one for each of us, and we took turns one by one pulling out a stuffed Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. I knew what it meant but couldn't believe it. I think my dad was expecting more of a reaction from me but I had trouble forming words, and my hands were shaking as I tried to fathom the enormity of such a surprise - such a gift. We were going to Disney World. Together. All of us. And I had months to plan and anticipate and dream about it. Isn't that half the fun of such a big vacation? The excitement and anticipation?
This would be my eighth trip to Disney. I know that many are blessed to go once, and I was extremely lucky to grow up in a home with a Mom and Dad who valued these trips and saw the magic in them just as much as any kid does - maybe even more so. It's funny that a place so far from home - one I hadn't been to in a little over 10 years - still feels so much like a home to me now. And I also know it's probably not a place for everyone. There are crowds. And lines. And it can be hot. And you have to like rides. But to me, it's always been about so much more than the rides and the characters and the $8.00 hot dogs.
It's about the people of Disney - the cast members as they call themselves - and how each and every one of the thousands of people that work in this place go out of their way - above and beyond - to make each visitor feel special. From the maids that make your beds and leave little surprises for you to return to after a long day, to the resort maintenance guys that stop in the middle of the sidewalk just to say, "Good morning, Princess," to a little girl in a yellow Beauty and the Beast dress. To the Safari drivers at Animal Kingdom that know all about the animals and want to make sure you leave with some knowledge of your own as they drive you through the attraction and ensure that you're able to get that perfect picture during your journey. To the girl holding the 'Park Exit' sign during the Star Wars fireworks show that can't help but tell you how much she loves her job every single day she comes to work in this park. It's about being with your family and feeling like you're in your own little bubble during these days - oblivious to the things going on in the outside world, and feeling like it can't really touch you in this place. It's about "When You Wish Upon a Star" seen through the eyes of your children and leaving on the very last night of vacation, refusing to say goodbye for good, knowing that you will find a way to make it back there again some day.
My dad and I share this in common. We can never leave on the final day without envisioning our next time there. We do not say goodbye. And as soon as we get home, we already miss it.
This trip was everything I hoped it would be. Spending our final night around that castle underneath those fireworks with a little family of my own now, I couldn't help but get teary-eyed. And as we waited in line for the bus to take us back to our resort for one more night's sleep by the Sassagoula River, my dad and I both said, "2018?"
In the mean time, I'll be sharing all about our trip over the next week or two. Because this magical place is a place for memories and this blog is a place for memories, too. So be prepared for a whole lot of Mickey.