I would be remiss if I didn’t relish in the secondary (or was it the primary) reason for being so excited to be in Orlando last week. We would add three days onto our trip, meet my parents, and bring our fifteen month old son to the Magic Kingdom. Although we knew for certain he’d have no genuine recollection of being there, we were quite confidence that the experience would help to shape his young life. And since it’s hard to deny the place is the happiest place on Earth, I wouldn’t dare get in the way of making sure Eli roamed the park on this hot summer day.
Eli has been an exemplary travelers in his fifteen months. More than a dozen states, half dozen plane rides, and mommy and daddy still planning more trips for him. So we had cautiously high expectations for his reaction to Disney World. We were cognizant of the heat and of the exhausting nature of completing the park and so we heeded the advice of parents who went before us and charted out a course before we even arrived. I was only too excited to do that, admittedly.
We were able to get a nap out of him on the ride to the park and since we rather strictly abide by the unspoken policy of never waking a sleeping baby, we all sat in the air conditioned mini van in the parking lot for a whole hour while he got himself rejuvenated and ready. What’s funny about that is we couldn’t benefit from Disney’s scientifically designed parking and tram system. You see, by the time we got out of our car, a full hour after all the cars who pulled in at the same time as we, no trams were servicing our parking lot! So we expended a lot of that built up energy just getting to the monorail! Ultimately we found ourselves at Main Street USA and made the strategic move to hop the railroad to Fantasy Land rather that, as others do, spend all day getting there. This is the land which makes most sense for babies, where the little people rides are and where Eli could meet some of the characters.
Rides were fun for him, and Small World nearly mesmerized him into a trance, but for Eli, nothing beat meeting the characters. We had high hopes but in truth, we didn’t know what to expect since he’d never seen creatures like this before. We were so very relieved when he was not only not scared, but was immediately enamored by Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Minnie. So much so that he cried when we had to leave. It isn’t like it used to be here – characters aren’t roaming the park. They’re more permanently stationed and accepting visitors. Surely this is better for the health of the characters but it meant waiting on lines to see them and kids don’t love lines. We watched parades, we had our fair share of magical moments with Eli on my shoulders, and we endured the heat. But the reward was yet to come, upon exit. We didn’t even know if we’d get to see Mickey but oh did we. Somehow we were lucky enough to be the last family in our section of the line. So we were admitted in to the room with maybe a dozen other eager families but we’d be last to visit with Mickey. In a way, this meant we could have all the time we wanted so long as Mickey and friends didn’t throw us out. Eli was so taken by Mickey, and Mickey by Eli, we couldn’t even believe our eyes. Eli pulled out all his tricks to impress Mickey, including throwing kisses for the first time ever! It was priceless, and of course captured in many stills and one memorable video.
It is hard to know whether memories fade because of time, distance, or because they go unspoken. And although he’s not manufacturing memories just yet biologically, Eli will remember this day because we will and we won’t ever let him forget.