Our trip to Disney World was cold, rainy, and wonderful. When I told friends about the weather we endured in Orlando they offered sympathetic responses. But they don’t know. Because when you’re a Disney Pro, cold and rainy is what you want; inclement weather keeps the Floridians with season passes at home and brings the wait times down! Throw disposable ponchos in the backpack and you are king of the park. Add extra magic hours and at 1 am on a rainy day you can walk right on to Space Mountain over and over again.
Disney World is a place of magic for my family. It all started when we had three with the forth on the way. We saved our pennies and took the plunge for our first trip. It was a lot for a young family, but was worth it the minute we walked onto Main Street and our oldest (5 at the time) broke into spontaneous dance when she took in the lights and sounds around her.
We went back a few years later when we had our full complement of children. Even at two, Kylie was so happy on the ferry ride that she had to pull her shirt up and rub her belly – which is the ultimate expression of joy!
I won’t bore you with our memories – they are special to us, but most are the, “you had to be there,” kind of funny. This trip might have been our last as a family living together. It was a graduation present for Meredith (college) and Jenna (high school). Pretty soon, real life will set in for them. We may get back there again, you never know. But there are no guarantees once they start leaving the nest. In fact, there are no guarantees at all.
This trip, we walked just over fifty miles in five days. In the past, with my head visible above the crowd, I was the exclusive leader of the pack. But now, at 50, I followed some. Only Jenna and I have the fortitude it takes to successfully navigate Disney – to crush the elderly and push small children aside. The others are too soft-hearted to get anywhere because you have to be decisive in a crowd and move with purpose. That’s a joke, of course, no one (that we know of) was actually hurt during our Disney Trip.
While we were on a bus one day, our 20-year-old, Kendall made the statement that this was her ninth trip to Disney. I was floored. One of those was with her high school chorus, but eight were family trips. Thinking of the money I had just shelled out, I found it hard to believe we got there eight times! But she remembers everything so I stopped doubting her long ago.
With the girls sleeping on the trip back, the old, worn-out folks began to reminisce about the week. We talked about how much we missed Kylie there – she would have loved every second of it. Of course, we also felt her there often. Our life is now a conflicted state of hard/easy, joy/pain, contentment/discontent.
As a father who has had to hammer at the budget for over 22 years, I pondered the amount of money we spent on those eight trips. There have been some lean years mixed in there; years of belt-tightening and tough decisions. Yet we went eight times! That total cost must be mid-five digits before the decimal – likely enough to buy a nice car. That’s a lot of money.
And I don’t want a dollar back. My circumstance has taught me that experience trumps anything I own or could own. Kylie was taken away from me too early, but no one can ever take away the memory of her first meeting with Mickey Mouse or her smile when she was finally big enough to ride Splash Mountain.
If you are a young dad, please listen to me: Take the trip! Use your vacation! Spend the money! I am not advocating financial irresponsibility – if you are struggling to make ends meet, take a camping trip (I grew up with vacations in tents.) But most of us could endure a smaller house, a less expensive car, or fewer nights out. Skimp somewhere else but do not shortchange your time and experience with you children. The big car will always be at the dealership, but the reality of life is that none of us are promised another day with our loved ones. We should live our lives with that in mind and leave no room for regret.