1. Anticipation and arrival. The trip has been planned for months. We’ve referred to it in excitement – “Can you believe we’re going to Disney in 20 days? Woohooo!” We’ve used it as a threat – “If you continue to act like this, there is no way we’re going to Disney. I’ll cancel the trip right now!”
We’ve driven eight hours to Orlando and now, finally, we are at the Magic Kingdom. We pull into the park and follow what appears to be every minivan and SUV in the southern United States. I can’t wait for my kids to experience the magic! Sunscreen? Check. Sunglasses and hats? Check. Excited kids? Check. Let’s go!
2. Sweaty but happy. Florida sunshine beating down. Thousands of people crowded together, moving en masse toward every ride. But hey, it’s Disney World on Memorial Day weekend. This is to be expected. We buy the kids sugary treats. We buy them popcorn. Sarah gets a pink Minnie Mouse cap. Daniel heads excitedly toward Space Mountain. We’re great parents! This is awesome!
3. Stop touching me! If either of my children grab my arm, wrist, elbow, side or touch me in any other way one more time, I will scream! And if that wild group of teenage thugs (okay, clean cut recent high school graduates if their matching T-shirts are to be believed, but whatever) think they’re cutting in front of my kids after they’ve been standing in this line for what feels like years, I will punch them in their Mickey mouths. And if I have to watch one more person gnaw disturbingly on an enormous, greasy turkey leg, I might Wreck it Ralph all over them. Sarah has to pee again. I have spent as much time waiting for her in stinky bathrooms as I have on rides.
4. Rejuvenation. Okay, Sarah’s finished her buisness. We’ve eaten lunch. It was unhealthy and expensive, but it was sustenance. I’m ready to head back out into the teeming crowds again. Small World, an hour on line. But how I love it! I feel like a kid again. They’re right, it is a small world. I love all these cultures on display in pastel colors. Australia on one side, Hawaii on the other. I feel carmraderie with everyone around me. And Sarah loves it too. Daniel, at 8, pretends to be way too cool for this, but he’s into it too. I can tell. This is what it’s all about! Disney Magic at its finest.
5. Exhaustion. Cannot take another step. We have been here for five hours and if we want to see fireworks, it’s going to be another six. Six! Where’s the Isolation Chamber ride? My feet ache. I want out of here. How do I get out of the blazing sun? We wait in line for 20 minutes for a pineapple float and sit on a tiny patch of shady sidewalk which is directly next to a trash can. Not so magical smells of Disney debris waft through the air and our feet are continually stepped on by the stampeding throngs. But at this point, it’s shady, so we don’t care.
6. Despising people. Why has everyone in the universe chosen Disney World today? Why would you wear that? I can see your butt hanging out of those shorts and it’s not attractive! I hate you. I hate all of you. I hate myself. I want to go home.
7. Renewed faith in humanity. After finding out we couldn’t ride Peter Pan because the line is five hours long and the fast pass time to come back is 10:30 p.m., a merciful employee takes pity on us and gives us a handful of ride tickets that get us to the front of the line. There’s eight of them. I love him. Michael actually hugs him and I tear up a little. Now we can ride and ride and ride. Giddy, we go from Peter Pan to all the mountains – Splash, Thunder and Space. We are unstoppable!
8. Frustration. Sarah is as hyper as if she’s mainlined sugar directly into her bloodstream. She is spinning around and twirling and races directly into a strange man’s crotch. We do the under-your-breath yelling thing. “If you don’t calm down right now we will take away Thumper!” (Who we happily bought for her earlier in the day because we were under Disney’s spell and she professed crazy love for him and which has now become our biggest bargaining tool).
9. Feeling the magic. We’ve spent 13 hours here and my feet are hurting in places I didn’t know I had. We stumble, exhausted, down the street in search of a place to watch the fireworks. It’s packed. A family refuses us entry to the wide patch of cement they’ve laid claim to. Disgusted, we continue on and find our own slice of heaven – a filthy sidewalk with nice people who actually move over for us. Renewed faith in humanity again! The parade with all its flash. Sarah waves wildly at Tinkerbell. Daniel cranes his neck to see the spectacle. The laser show which colors the castle with brilliant colors and characters. And then the fireworks. Amazing! Magic! The reason we came! Wonderful! Happy!
10. Drained but victorious. It’s 11 p.m. The fireworks are over. Daniel is leaning heavily on me and his eyes are at half-mast. We are in a mass of people so large, it’s hard to move. My foot is repeatedly run over by a stroller. Everyone in the park is shoulder to shoulder on Main Street, heading for the exit. We shuffle blindly in the mass of people, assuming we’re going the right way. Then it’s time to line up for the monorail. Every child in the seemingly endless line is crying and whining. Every parent is glassy-eyed. Thirty minutes later, we are finally in our car and within moments the kids are asleep. We’ve done it. We’ve conquered the park! We have spent 13 hours here and have wrung every bit of magic out of it that we can. We have gone to infinity and beyond and now it’s time for sleep.