While our family went on vacation every year, my childhood remained somewhat unfulfilled because we never went to Disneyland. To be fair, Disneyland wasn’t anything more than a little spark in Walt Disney’s imagination until the early 1950s, and it didn’t open for business until July 1955. Since I wasn’t born until December of 1953, and using the theory that you shouldn’t take kids to Disneyland at too young an age because they won’t remember it anyway, I’ll give my mom and dad a pass. I’ll blame my personality shortcomings on a terrifying horseback ride when I was 10 instead of a lack of opportunity for a youthful bonding with Mickey.
I did, however, love to watch the Mickey Mouse Show, featuring Annette Funicello (who made boys pant and girls jealous) and Bobby Burgess (who later went on to breaking hearts on the Lawrence Welk Show. In more recent years, most of my grandkids and great nieces and nephews got hooked on a newer, updated Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and the gang. The theme song of the new version was stuck in my head many a night, but watching “Mi Mow” was a great way to distract Cole when he was 2.
In fact, I didn’t visit the Magic Kingdom until Court and I went to visit my girlfriend who at that time lived in Orlando. Court was probably about 5, and we went to Disney World. I guess it’s safe to say that I was hooked from the get-go.
Back in those days, Disney World offered the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Period. That was plenty, however. You had your joyful fun and adventures at the Magic Kingdom, and then you had your stab at something a bit more educational at Epcot. I will never forget the first time we visited the World Showcase, giving guests a feeling of traveling around the world. Food-wise, we never really got past Germany, because Bratwurst. But hearing the mariachi band in Mexico and seeing the red phone booths in the UK made me feel positively worldly.
Since that time, I have visited Disneyland maybe two or three times, and Disney World maybe another couple of times. I had the good sense to marry someone who — much to everyone’s surprise — loves Disneyland too. And I have clearly passed on my love for All Things Disney to Court, as he has visited both Disneyland and Disney World a number of times, even as an adult. In fact, when he graduated from high school, as part of his graduation gift, I told him I would take him anywhere in the continental United States – along with his cousin B.J. Anywhere. San Francisco. New York City. Los Angeles or Dallas or Atlanta. He chose Disney World. That’s my boy. He has taken his three kids to Disneyland twice, and yesterday, they left for Disney World.
I drove with them to the airport at – quite literally – the crack of dawn, so that I could drive their car back to their house. The three kids were quietly excited. Five days of sunny Florida weather (except for occasional rainstorms), visits with Mickey and Minnie and (my personal favorite) Figment, a long-standard at Epcot, swimming and water slides, fireworks, and parades.
Fingers crossed that they don’t run into an alligator. And I’m not kidding.
At the same time the Zierks are heading east, my McLain grands are driving (with their parents) west towards Alaska. And what with my two boys living in Vermont, I am – for the first time in a very long time – grandchildless in Denver. I don’t quite know what to do with myself.
Maybe I’ll watch Beauty and the Beast or Mary Poppins. It’s the least I can do…..