Up until this point, he hadn’t been overly jazzed about visiting Disney World — at least not in the way I expected him to be. When I broke the news that we’d be heading to Florida and seeing lots of cool things, like Legoland, and palm trees, and Universal Studios, and bum-da-da-DUM…DISNEY WORLD!!!!! … he was more focused on some “Transformers” ride that his older cousin told him about in Universal Studios. Or the water park that Legoland Florida now has, which he was off-the-charts excited for. (To be fair, it’s been a long winter and I can’t blame the kid for wanting to swim a full two months earlier than he’ll be able to swim here in New York. He wanted to live in our hotel’s pool.)
But still, part of me was feeling like, THIS IS DISNEY WORLD WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, WHY ARE YOU NOT JUMPING UP AND DOWN AND SHRIEKING WITH EXCITEMENT? Even the morning of, he wasn’t busting at the seams to go, go, go to Mickey. Nah. He wanted to float down our hotel’s lazy river and lounge on the fluffy bed with room service. Sure he wanted to see Mickey and go visit Cinderella’s castle, but it could wait.
He maintained that same attitude, even when we were taking the ferry over from the parking lot, and I could see Cinderella’s castle far off in the distance, and I handed him his Mickey hat because (eeeek!) we’re almost there! He took the hat, snapped some photos with his disposable camera, and was most concerned with whether he could eat ice cream at 10 a.m.
Even when we walked through the archway into Town Square, and we saw the turn-of-the-century buildings, and clouds of balloons, and Barbershop-Quartet-looking gentlemen. It all looks exactly the same as it did 15 years ago, back when I was walking that same street with my family. There’s a feeling, a specialness, that transcends the crowds and chaos at The Magic Kingdom, and I looked down at him as we walked through those arches, expecting him to feel it, too.
All he felt was the sun in his eyes.
For me, it was as if no time had passed at all. I could practically feel my little sister walking next to me with an oversized lollipop, and my mom might as well have been following behind in her green Goofy shirt.
I snapped a photo of the Lady-and-the-Tramp-inspired Italian restaurant and mass texted it with a “remember this place?” message. I passed the spot on the sidewalk where my family parked for the Main Street Electrical Parade, and smiled to myself.
All the while, we’re walking toward Cinderella’s castle with a herd of other families. And I looked down at my not-impressed child who I assumed was scanning the store signs for the words “ice cream.” That’s when I saw his wide smile.
“Woah,” he quietly exhaled. “There it is, Mommy. Just like in the beginning of the movies.”
People were walking and wheeling around him — his tiny body suddenly still. And smiling.
That’s when I knew.
I knew that the next time he walks through those arches, and he sees those building and balloons and Barbershop-Quartet gentlemen, he’ll feel it.
He’ll feel whatever he was feeling as he looked up at Cinderella’s castle for the first time, and he’ll remember holding his mom’s hand as she held her iPhone camera in the other. And he’ll swear he can still feel his Dad walking up behind him with an ice cream cone.
He’ll feel it.