In 2008, while watching Samantha Brown on some travel show or another walking down Main Street U.S.A. during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I turned to my husband and announced that we were taking our kids there to experience the holidays at Walt Disney World. Having learned years before not to question my epiphanies, the good man went along with the plan. After several months, tons of number crunching, and more trip planning spreadsheets than I should admit to, our little extended family of six piled into a plane and headed to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Our travel party included this little guy who was two and a half years old when his wide eyes took in their first Disney attraction, It’s a Small World.
For a week we hit all of the Walt Disney World favorites. We followed my carefully crafted touring plan and breezed from one character meal to the next, making memories to last a lifetime … or at least until the next trip in our now embarrassingly long string of Walt Disney World vacations. You see, I was already a Disney fan before that holiday of 2008 trip. But what happened that week stole my heart.
My little man was having an amazing time and even made friends with the big cheese himself, but something was on his sweet little two-year-old mind all week. You see, both of my kids knew at the start of the week that they would be allowed to select one souvenir from the trip. That’s right — one. I’m that mom.
The very first day of our trip, Noah had noticed a Pluto stuffed animal in the window display at Wilderness Lodge. This was no ordinary Pluto. He was round like a ball — Noah’s second word after “mama” — and had reindeer antlers. Not only did that particular store not actually sell this holiday Pluto, but we couldn’t find him in any store in any of the Walt Disney World Parks.
We offered our little guy everything from swords to sweets, but to no avail. His heart was with reindeer ball Pluto. On our final day, we walked into Emporium in the Magic Kingdom thinking that if Pluto could be found, surely this would be the place. We stopped a cast member to ask for help, explaining the Pluto in the window display dilemma, Noah watching with big eyes from his stroller.
And that is when Disney stole my heart. Claimed it, took it, earned this mother’s loyalty for the rest of time.
The cast member explained that this strange hybrid Pluto — part reindeer, part dog, part ball to throw at his big sister — was likely only in that window display and not available anywhere else. If the cast member in that store could locate the sales tag for it, he could sell it to us. If not, it would have to stay in the window. He wished us luck, but before we left he reached up to the shelf next to him — the shelf filled with every other Pluto variety available in the parks — and pulling the tag off, he handed it to Noah.
“Here, please have this one. I want to make sure your son gets a Pluto to love just in case he can’t have the Pluto back at Wilderness Lodge.”
For Noah, the story ends with a fabulous cast member at Wilderness Lodge locating a tag and selling us the holiday Pluto. For me, the story ends with my heart full of Disney love, knowing that no other establishment in the world treats their guests with such love and care, putting their interests first always.
Dang it, Disney. You got me.