We just returned from 5 days in Disney World. I did not hate it and I did not love it, but details of the trip will certainly remain seared in my memory for life. Not to be dramatic, but it was one of the most rigorous things we have done as a family to date, which I guess says a lot about how we like to vacation. I think it means we like to relax.
Thinking back on the trip, I visualize undulating seas and lines of people going in and out of focus as I put one foot in front of the other and try to move forward. My path is clogged with epic strollers and adult scooters for those not able to make their way around the park on foot. People are walking with turkey legs in hand. I had heard about this, and now I was seeing it in real life. I recall completely separate stages of the lining up process: 1.) Preparing to get in line based on which lines are shortest, 2.) Lining up to get into the lines, and then 3.) Waiting on the lines. This is after spending quite a bit of money to make sure we were maximizing our time by “fastpassing” and using other special Disney magic™ made possible by VISA/Mastercard/American Express.
At the end of each day, sitting on the crisply made beds of our lovely hotel room (it really was quite pleasant), with our bath towels folded into Mickey shaped heads, the four of us would collapse by 9 pm from the sheer effort of planning, navigating and trying to maximize fun while thousands of others did the same. We thought perhaps because we live in New York and walk a lot and are kind of pushy and can sometimes get a lot done in a day that somehow we would be winning in that environment. Not so much. We were amateurs who did our best and followed a very well researched plan, but still everywhere you looked were people, very nice people who totally meant well, but who nonetheless would beat you down.
However. However. However. The kids had a blast, and there were epic moments while I watched their eyes widen and their smiles “light up” (so Disney of me). The first night we arrived and the four of us went on this Seven Dwarves themed roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom that was just scary enough to excite the little one, but steep enough in the dark to impress the big one. Careening down a hill in the dark that came out into this massive bejeweled room with Dopey, Sneezy, Cranky, et al, our little unit tucked into two tiny cars screaming at the top of our lungs with our arms in the air?! Amazing. It feels pretty great to scream that loud under any circumstances, but knowing your kids are having the same rush you are is doubly cool.
Of course, the fearless 8 year old became obsessed with big crazy roller coasters, which Evan and I had to trade off riding with her. We were both exhilarated and yet nauseated. It ain’t pretty to see a 50ish guy and or 40th gal trying to walk a straight path after being jerked around on Space Mountain or taken upside down on the Aerosmith’s coaster while “Love in an Elevator” blasts. Oy, our inner ears.
The 4 year old, a “sensory seeker” who can get overwhelmed with too much stimulation, had a pretty good time but also had two epic meltdowns when his small purple backpack was taken from him and searched by security guys. On day 4 of the trip, when he was lying on the ground (creepily clean but still) just inside the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we all just let him lie there for a while and freak out. And no one around us cared. Not a soul. Because the flip side to how overwhelming it can be to have that many families and people in one place is that no one bats an eyelash when your kid goes loco. No one cares. Disney may be a tad cheesy and maybe people don’t know who Lou Reed and Laurie Andersen are like they all do at Fairway in Redhook, but it is a safe, warm place with kids of all kinds and ages and ZERO JUDGEMENT. And that is a vacation in some ways for sure.
Along those lines, the sharpest contrast between Brooklyn and Disney was that no one I noticed visiting the park was irritated having to wait for any of these things, and most people were overjoyed to be there and to talk to us on the monorail and in the lobby of the hotel and at the restaurants. No one was shouting at each other, no one expected any more then they were getting. No one was pulling rank as far as I could tell. No one was looking around surreptitiously to make sure they were ok, and really no one was looking at their phones every second.
Also, the people who work there are crazy nice. From the moment our feet touched the ground in Orlando, it was all helpful, dutiful, and kind people who talked us through lines and got us from place to place and smiled and helped.
So all that was a truly a break from NYC, where everyone is always on the lookout for the best and things seem to always be at the breaking point much of the time. That can also be very tiring. I think it’s important to step out of whatever grind you live in. It was freeing to go somewhere where no one was concerned how cool something is, and no one talked once about how small batch something is or how they found out about it a year ago before everyone else did. It can really tiring to always have things under the microscope, when almost everyone you know is discerning and ironic and in some kind of way angling for something or another. Ambition is great, and I want to be around smart and sharp people. But its good to have a break for all of that striving. One thing I really realized on this trip how New Yorkers including myself might be a bit addicted to struggle. It makes us feel alive.
And what’s funny? Evan and I were struggling in the Disney environment. It was hard for us to slow down and wait and just be like everyone else waiting in line for Disney crap our kids would soon lose or forget about. How funny is that?
So, my review is mixed. I’m glad Disney happened. Man was it expensive but I learned a lot for the next time, and now my kids will have these memories forever. And yet, I don’t need to go back for a very long time, possibly ever.
Coming back into nasty, cold, harsh and un-customer friendly JFK Airport, the chaos of getting a car service outside the airport, and arriving home to our scaffolding heavy, rutted cobblestone street-ed Brooklyn themed version of Disney, where the boiler had gone out and we all slept together on the pullout couch bed, also felt like an adventure and was weirdly fun. It’s pretty lucky to go away but it’s usually better to come home.