03 October 2011

Every dream you ever had

40 years is a long time, and no time at all really, to make memories that will last a life time. We all have one. Heck, most of us have dozens of memories and we make more each and every time we visit. With the Vacation Kingdom just a tick over 40 today, here’s a few of the Gazette Roundtables most personal memories.

Roundtable Topic: What is your most cherished Walt Disney World memory?
Roundtable Contributors: Greg Grimsley (The Disney Obsession), Melissa Loflin (Makin’ Memories), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), D.J. Jones (The World of Deej), Eric Hoffman (Netmongrel), and yours truly.
Greg – “Your most cherished” seems to imply that I need to limit myself to one memory. Sorry Ryan, no can do. Although I will not break the word count bank either.

If I had to title this response, I would call it “Firsts”. All of my most cherished memories focus on something being a first time.

I suppose the first of these memories comes in the late Eighties. My grandfather had just recently passed away and I thought a brief change of scenery would be good for my grandmother. So I loaded up the kids and my grandmother, I called her “Nanny”, and we headed south. We stayed off property at what was once known as the Holiday Inn Maingate West. This was not Nanny’s first trip to Walt Disney World. She was along with the family in March 1972 during our first visit. But this trip would be the first time that she would have the chance to visit EPCOT Center (that is what we called it back then). Once we entered through the turnstiles and she could see Spaceship Earth in its fullness, she said, “I never thought I’d live to see this.”

There is one.

We can fast forward to 2003 for the next “most cherished” memory. This one involves my wife and mom. I got this idea that we should spend a few days during the Christmas holiday in the parks. I worked with Gaylord Hotels at the time. I rang up a friend and was able to book a suite for the three of us. So, off we go, driving most of Christmas Day and arriving that evening. We were only going to have two days to spend in the parks so we opted for Epcot on Day One and the Magic Kingdom on Day Two. This would be my mother’s first visit to Epcot. Once she had the experience of seeing Spaceship Earth, but more importantly, the World Showcase, she made a statement that can best be summed up as, “I understand a little better, why you love it so much.” That was a first! It didn’t hurt either that she was as giddy as a schoolgirl when she saw Woody during the Very Merry Christmas Parade the next day.

That’s two.

Now, my final “most cherished” moment for this project. From the birth of my first grandchild, it had been my dream to take them to Walt Disney World, hold their hands and walk right down the middle of Main Street. It was a memory that was years in the making but during Labor Day of 2009, I did just that! For most of the first hour or so of that day I was fighting back tears. I had a few escape during the Park Opening Ceremony seeing my grandchildren’s eyes fixed on everything that was going on in front of them and then those eyes going wide when Mickey appeared. I was sniffling a bit more when I took their hands and we walked through the archways into Town Square. Wow! But the moment came as we turned the corner near the Emporium onto Main Street. I could hear my granddaughter gasp! She said, “Oh Papa, it’s so beautiful!”

That was it. It was all over and I no longer fought to hold back the tears. After a moment or so, I dried my eyes, we all posed for pictures and we went about our day of creating more memories.

Wrapping up, I have since taken two of my grandchildren back to Walt Disney World for their “Solo Trip with Papa”. There are many more memories with them I could share, but those can wait for another time (and another blog) I suppose.

Walt Disney once reminded us that, “it all started with a mouse.” My most cherished memories of the world that Walt built all started with a gasp.

Melissa – I was never able to visit Walt Disney World as a child. My parents always opted for beach or mountain vacations. When the time came to plan my wedding and honeymoon, I knew what I wanted to do.

So on November 23, 2003 I set my first foot on Disney property and I haven't stopped since! We originally booked a stay at Port Orleans Riverside, but thanks to Samantha Brown's Great Hotels, I convinced my soon to be husband we needed to splurge and stay at the Grand Floridian. (It was, after all, a special occasion!) We pulled up to the resort and I will never forget the Cast Member opening the car door for me and saying "Welcome Home". I never get tired of that.

After checking in we headed straight for my first ever park, Epcot. I will always remember our first real married couple dinner at the Coral Reef, followed by a stroll around the World Showcase with my new husband, and seeing the various performers that were out and about (remember the masked performers in Italy?). We finished our evening by grabbing a spot between the UK and France for Illuminations and my husband brought us hot chocolate from France because it was chilly that evening. Illuminations took my breath away and it still to this day has remained my favorite nighttime show.

That night we made it back to the Grand Floridian to finally see our room for the first time. I will never forget opening the curtains to the balcony, stepping outside, and seeing Cinderella Castle across the water. You could even hear the music drifting across from the Magic Kingdom. That was a moment that has always stuck in my mind as a cherished memory. That first day, along with the entire trip, was incredibly special and I find that every trip we take now, I try to recreate a little bit of that magic.

AJ – With so many wonderful Walt Disney World memories running through my head, I'm going to seize upon the first one I thought of -- a nap.

Well, it was more than just a nap. You see, the nap happened at the beginning of the only Mother/Daughter trip I've taken to Walt Disney World. We'd taken an early morning flight to Orlando and checked into Coronado Springs with the intention of turning right around and heading out to the parks.

Instead...we crashed. We'd both had busy, difficult months leading up to the trip, and when we fell into those beds it was all over! We woke up five hours later feeling more rested than we had in weeks and well ready to begin our vacation.

The bottom line? Sometimes the most luxurious and memorable thing to do in Disney World is...well...nothing at all.

Daniel – I have so many memories at Disney, that picking one as my most cherished is a nearly impossible task. So if it's OK by you, I'd like to share two...

The first, and certainly the most important Disney memory, was my wedding. Nearly 3 years ago, my wife and I said our vows along Crescent Lake at the Boardwalk Resort. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we simply could not have asked for better weather. After our ceremony, the party moved indoors to Ariels at the Beach Club for our reception. We picked a great menu for the buffet, and we were perhaps the first couple in history that got to eat at our own wedding. There was no way I was missing out on Narcoossee's mussels and sweet plantains. And yes, they go together great!

The other Disney memory that I hold dear happened when I was about 12 years old. Every year as a kid, we spent a week at Disney while my Dad played in the amateur portion of the Golf Classic PGA event. It was so much fun getting to see my dad play with some of the pros we often watched on TV, and the memory that stands out most is of the late Payne Stewart. After he finished his round, my brother and I waited patiently outside the scorer's tent for his autograph. Seeing us while he signed his score card, he called for us to come into the tent, signed our hats, and gave my brother the ball he had just used. I had interacted with famous golfers many times before, but none had gone to such lengths to make a couple kids feel special. No doubt a great memory, of a great guy that the world lost far too early.

Eric – I believe one of my favorite memories of WDW is getting caught in the rain with my wife Lisa while on our honeymoon at Disney World. That was our first trip together to WDW. Honestly, I don't really remember much about that trip sadly. Just ask my wife, many of the details are gone from my feeble memory. However I do vividly remember dashing from store to store and ride to ride wearing our bright yellow Mickey ponchos. It was hot and humid but we had such a great time in the rain on that trip. Looking back, life was so much simpler then, and the thought of two "kids" in their early 20's laughing and splashing around in the rain at Disney World is just a precious memory. All that rain and humidity really did wreak havoc my hair though...

Ryan – A single memory is had to choose from, but I have to keep myself honest and not cheat on my own question. I have so many wonderful memories, from my wife and me goofing off through World Showcase, setting the course record for Fantasia Gardens, watching a hail storm with my dad in Fort Wilderness, great dinners and wonderful conversations, listening to the horns of the boats come in to the Wilderness Lodge with my wife from our balcony, being convinced to skip a birthday party to trek off to the Magic Kingdom and so many more. As with any memory of Walt Disney World, it is less about what we are doing and more about who I am with. So, let’s pick a memory and go with it.

I’m sitting on my dad’s lap, on a bench in front of Italy in World Showcase. My sister is situated similarly upon my mother’s lap. Both parents are hunched over, holding on to us, trying to keep us covered by their Walt Disney World ponchos. That’s right, were hanging out in EPCOT Center, on a cold, rainy winter night. My parents are holding us, while holding out hope that Illuminations is going to light up the sky without a hitch. The park is almost empty, but minutes before the show is scheduled to begin, the storm lifts and we are given a perfect view of the show.

It wasn’t the show that I remember from that night, it was my parents. They were determined to give us a magical evening. My sister and I were dying to see Illuminations on that evening, a show we had seen, and would see, a thousand times. My parents found a way to keep us dry and warm, while they were surely shivering and getting sprayed in the face with rain, and in doing so gave us a night to remember.

The heart of any Walt Disney World experience is the people I share this stretch of Florida with, and that is where my favorite memories will always be found.

There really isn’t much left to say, except to ask, what is your most cherished Walt Disney World memory?


Greg said...

Great memories everyone! Here's to making many more!

Kmac0124 said...

I don't usually post but I love the site and I loved reading everyone's memories. The great thing about Disney is that it allows so many people the opportunity to create memories of their own. My first was my actual first memory. It was 1986 and I was 3 and my parents took me to the Magic Kingdom for the first time. The first moment I can remember being alive was coming around the corner as the boat in Peter Pan's Adventure took flight. I believed I was flying and looking down over "London" I thought I could do anything. I still hold onto that feeling and the magic I felt. Reading the other stories posted just reminded me of that.