Two hundred sixteen hours.
Twelve thousand, nine hundred and sixty minutes.
That’s the approximate amount of time we spent soaking up the Yellow on our latest family vacation to the House that Walt Built. And six days after our return, as I sit here in the dark and think back on it, it seemed to last just a tiny fraction of that amount.
But then again, I knew it would. It always does.
Since we booked this year’s trip, a fantastically funky fortieth birthday celebration for my husband roughly six months in advance, we had a lot of time to anticipate the things we might do. The things we looked forward to doing the most. Based on numerous family discussions around the dinner table, forty of them were previously listed here. I’m happy to report that we were able to fit in most of them. As well as a few more that weren’t on the list.
But most importantly, more important than anything that could ever be placed on any list, we felt blessed to be together. To be healthy and happy. To have God’s hand at work in our lives. We forgot about the pressures of work and the reminders that our children are growing up so fast they’ll soon be applying for social security. And getting false teeth. We kicked stress to the curb (for the most part anyway) and once again pulled out our family‘s favorite measuring stick as we watched our children grow another year older and wiser, and face fears head on, with Disney as the backdrop. We forgot about the oil spill and the threat of hurricanes. We breathed in deeply and, for a change, smelled nothing but memories. Funnel cakes and fun times. And…. chili. In places we weren’t expecting. Which was weird. More on that later. We engaged in shameless PDA, quoted offbeat movies WAY too much, danced when we should’ve walked, and laughed ourselves lightheaded. We lost track of the days, as we always do while we’re there, and allowed time to stand still.
For nine pretty dadgum awesome, if not hot and crowded as all get out days.
For two hundred sixteen hours.
For twelve thousand, nine hundred and sixty minutes.
Give or take.
All of which passed entirely too fast for my liking. Despite the time standing still thing. Or, perhaps because of it. Which is why even though I didn’t plan on writing any more trip reports, I currently plan on taking the next nine months (270 days, 6,480 hours, 388,800 minutes) reliving every last fleeting minute. Of our vacation. Here. Down to the very last, very sad drive underneath the arches. Going the wrong way. As our daughter cried and my husband declared emphatically (once again) that we would be visiting somewhere else next year.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
But to get to the end, we have to start at the beginning And this particular jaunt to the House of Mouse for our family began like most others we’ve taken over the last eight years. If I’ve learned nothing else about our family, it’s that we are creatures of habit. And every trip (even the times when we have surprised the kids) officially begins with the tearing off of the last link on the Countdown Chain. We get downright freaky and anticipation builds to a fever high pitch as the links get shorter and shorter.
And then it is time…
Time to pack the van (or, let DH pack the van) and time to get our freak on. Because we’re going to Did-neh Whirl, baby!
And on this particular day as the last link was ripped from its hold, staples and all, the kids danced around and we all did the Cupid Shuffle. One of us ( I won’t name names) took the funkified instructions a little too far. While slipping on an ice cube. To the right. To the right. To the right. Waaaayyyyy over to the right. And fell. Hard. This was no cute, semi graceful little girly fall. I used to be able to pull those off. A year ago. When I was eighteen. In my mind.
No, this was an old lady, blank confused stare for ten seconds afterwards, think I broke my arm but at least my new phone’s okay kinda fall. You know it’s bad when you open your eyes, feel nothing but pain and find your children’s faces hovering over you. Practically dripping spit into your eyeballs. Unintentionally. As they look down with mad concern in their eyes and question, “Dear sweet mother? Did you break your head?“
And their dear sweet mother, who previously thought she could Cupid Shuffle with the best of them, feels not so much eighteen. But more like 40.
Hi Mr. LaLa!
In other words: vacation had OFFICIALLY begun!
Because like the Countdown Chain, THIS is what announces the beginning of a Disney vacation to our family. Severe bodily injury. Which, at times, has been interchangeable with the following: waterline breakage, unexpected surgeries, overflowing washing machines, threatened electrocution, flooded houses (which tend to complete the circle by leading back to the severe bodily injury thing), and other assorted unexpected happenings. None of them good. It seems like every year, something happens on Disney Eve. Something unexpected. Something that’s not so much fun. And so as this nameless person lay there in the floor, wondering if this is how drunks feel (Hi Mel!), she was sure of two things: 1-choosing to protect cell phones over appendages is never a good call (no matter how cool and useful that metal detector app is), and 2- the trip had officially begun.
Literally. And figuratively.
I’m happy to report that I did not break anything that day. As previously feared. Thank the Lord above. My left side was only numb for three days (72 hours, 4,320 minutes), the hallucinations were actually fun (fireflies are so much easier to catch when they’re not real) and I was successful in finally drowning out the humming noises in my ears on the drive down with the help of some old friends.
When the man declared that we would be leaving at three in the morning in order to make it to Disney by lunchtime (because he’s a freak and it’s still all about the time…and I LOVE him for that), I was definitely down widdit. He stocked the CD player again with his extensive collection of old school mix tapes and over the long, long, longlonglong drive, we enjoyed spending some time with Willie McCoy. And Leroy Brown. Who was bad. Bad, even. Although he was much Better Than Ezra.
And after covering a WHOLE lot of miles and memories, watching the sunrise and immediately giving thanks to God for all his blessings, measuring several orange colored roads with my knuckles, kickin’ butt and takin' names in the Spot the Disney Sign Game ( I took first place this time with 168,000 points….gotta LOVE the point value for those Summer Nightastic billboards!), and swapping the 80s music for some Disney Toons, we seat danced when we looked off into the distance and saw the first (and coolest) sign that told us were finally there.
We had looked forward to a lot of things on this particular trip. The obvious things. Space Mountain. Expedition Everest. Illuminations. Funnel cakes. Time spent with family. Not necessarily in that order. But as we watched the road signs turn from green to purple (hat tip GB), found our lodging place for the night and walked into Pop Century that very first day, we were hit in the face with the one thing we love the most about arriving in Disney. Literally.
That unmistakable Disney resort smell.
If you fly your freak flag as high as we do, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you should get out now while you still can. It’s kind of a mixture of cold air and the smell of different varieties of food hitting you in the face. I think, anyway. At least, that’s what it always smells like to me.
And as SOON as those front doors of the Pop slid open and we shimmied on in, my husband and I immediately turned to look at each other. And smiled huge. He swiftly and openly declared his love. For the Disney smell. We were of one mind and one accord and that familiar scent got us going. It let us know that vacation had begun. All nine days of it. Which, in that place in time, seemed like it would last forever and a day.
We breathed a little deeper than necessary and listened to the kids’ high pitched squeals behind us as we sashayed over to the resort check in desk and did our thang.
Before we left, I had requested a refurbished room and notated on our reservation that we were celebrating my husband’s 40th birthday. The CM behind the desk was extremely nice and helpful and gave us the hookup with the room, handed DH a birthday pin (which he wore proudly for the next few days, if only to serve as a trap for unsuspecting CMs) and also gave the rest of us a stack of pins that read “I’m Celebrating”.
Apparently just being in the presence of my husband is reason enough to celebrate. He concurs with that assessment. Shocker. Even if you’re not celebrating the greatness of my DH, if there’s any way you can get your hands on some of these on your next trip, do it. We had fun giving unexpected answers to CMs all week as they foolishly asked us what we were celebrating.
I would NOT advise answering “A really nice Pooh” though.
Or would I?
We were pleasantly surprised to find that our room was ready so we hightailed it outta there (stopping long enough to see how many items we could identify in the 70s and 80s display boxes cause we’re cool like that) and then checked out the joint.
We’d stayed at Pop last year for one night and didn’t really fall in love with the place. The room was not up to par as far as cleanliness goes and to me, that alone can make or break a hotel stay. Among other things, we found a Hidden Mickey. In the shower. Perfectly formed by a singular small, black hair. That little sweetheart was there when we checked in.
In other words, not ours.
There was also a hole in the wall. Literally. I was a little hesitant to book here again but we were VERY pleased with the accomodations on this go ‘round. Everything seemed brand new and was extremely clean. They were bringin' the flat screen. Better to see Stacy with, my dear. Plus the 'hard carpet' was deemed THE BEST EVER to rub your bare feet on.
As per the boy.
After bringing in the overpacked overnight bag (did you expect anything less?) and getting sitchated, we grabbed our passes, threw the park bag over the old shoulder and hit the door. Ready to soak up some magic. Which is just what we did.
If “magic” is codeword for “rain”.
We experienced a whole heckuvalot of “magic” on this trip. Starting right about 3:00 every day. "Magic" was literally everywhere. So we donned our dollar store ponchos and stopped long enough to grab some grub at Everything Pop.
There’s something about that very first meal in Disney that just rocks. And the food court at Pop is pretty dang cool. Lots of variety. It's like Cosmic Ray's on steroids. Nice place to have the first meal of the trip. Plus they have Coke Zero. Which I gladly filled to the rim of my new refillable mug.
We had fun discussing our game plan for the day and once we’d finished and were able to tear the kids away from Phineus and Ferb (which was playing on the TV overhead), we hauled butt out front and caught our first cooler than cool Disney bus ride of the trip.
Another ‘first’ that we always look forward to.
There are so many things about the first day of a Disney trip that evoke happy memories and just all around good feelings for us. Because of the whole creatures of habit thing, probably. We’ve been bringing our family to Disney for vacation for many, many years. And before that, it was the place my husband and I spent our honeymoon. So as we arrived at our destination and passed underneath this sign…
…we were instantly transported back to yesterday. As we walked down Main Street, our cooler than cool twelve year old son and ‘growing up entirely way too fast’ nine year old daughter were two and five again. Unabashedly thankful and thrilled to be in their own personal happy place. The one they’ve grown to know like the backs of their hands over the years. Beside them a not quite forty year old man and his wife remembered the first time they walked down that street together. And felt like a couple of kids again.
Extremely immature adults, anyway. Which isn’t too far off the mark in normal circumstances.
And for nine days, two hundred sixteen hours, twelve thousand nine hundred and sixty minutes, we enjoyed the heck out of being in the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. Where time seems to stand still.
Especially while waiting in line for Space Mountain.
With a gaggle of Brazilian tour groups present.
Story at ten.