The road ahead is getting ready to take a hairpin turn into the winter holiday season, but while we are still basking in the waning light of fall there is Thanksgiving to give us a moment to catch our breath. Walt Disney World can be that way in our everyday lives, where we tend to move so quickly through the year that it is the vacations and limited down times that we get that actually make us pause to enjoy and take stock of what is really important to us. With that thought in mind, I thought I’d expand a little upon why I am thankful that Walt Disney World is a part of my life.
For those of you who have been following the Gazette for any length of time, you know that Walt Disney World has been a part of my life since, well, almost since the day I was born. My first trip to the Florida resort was with my parents when I was three months old. We stayed at Fort Wilderness in a tiny two person pup tent and I, shockingly, have no memory of that trip. My parents had visited the resort many times before I was born, but that trip to Fort Wilderness was the beginning of many trips to the campground the hugs the shore of Bay Lake.
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so trips to the Contemporary or Polynesian were out of the question, but my sister and I were not aware of lacking anything, as Fort Wilderness was a woodland paradise to us. We each also grew up with annual passes, but they were the Seasonal variety, with black-out dates. Again, we didn’t and couldn’t tell the difference, as my parents utilized as many of the regular dates we could. We had plenty of popcorn and Mickey Bars, but we also packed up a backpack with sandwiches we made ourselves and sat along the World Showcase Lagoon or watching the Nautili of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage. Not a bad view to share with your fried bologna on white, huh?
Additionally, my mother was very sick throughout my childhood, to the point of confounded doctors and not being able to be correctly diagnosed until last year, and my father started his own business, and was away from home for extremely long days. The fact that they were able to even stand at the end of the day, much less talk to and care for us with seemingly boundless compassion, is still a feat that astounds me.
This is not me poor-mouthing here. Heck, I probably visited the parks and resorts over one-hundred times before I even turned 8. It is my rough attempt to explain why Walt Disney World was a haven for me. The weekends, long weekends at Fort Wilderness or the day trips up to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, were times when we could all get together and find joy in the simple pleasures Walt Disney World afforded us. I’ve had aunts describe our family’s passion for Walt Disney World as being “ate up with that place,” and I suppose in some ways, she is absolutely right. My mother would stay behind the camera mostly, which is why I have so few pictures of her there, but I know she was right there with us, capturing as many of the precious moments as she could before my sister and I grew up. And my dad would come up with the goofiest, most terrific ideas of things to do in the parks.
There are any number of rotten memories I could focus on from my formative years, but you know what? We had more good days than bad, and because my parents had a love of Walt Disney World and shared that with us, a good number of those memories come from the Vacation Kingdom. But that’s not where the story ends for me and the resort.
Fast forward a few years to the year that I met my wife. Early on in our relationship, we knew we were in love and that this was the start of something different, something special. Like many couples in young relationships, after about six months, we decided we should go on vacation together. While neither of us would say it out loud, we both desperately wanted to see if we could travel together and pass one of those extremely important hurdles. Our destination? Why, Walt Disney World of course. From choosing the resort (Port Orleans – French Quarter), to the drive down, and all the queues and meals in between, there was nothing that we did not plan and deal with together. It was, indeed, the start of something magical.
Walt Disney World has made a number of my dreams come true. It has kept me safe in times when a child could have easily given in to sadness. It has given me innumerable memories of my family. It brought my wife and I closer together. It has given me a passion for learning, whether it is history, science, writing, and the world around me, and a reason to share this knowledge. And it has brought me a number of friends whom I don’t know what I would do without at this point.
So, thank you Walt Disney World. Thank you for all that you have given me! I hope that I’ve been able to give back even a sliver of what you have bestowed upon me.