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Jul 18 / Caro

The Disney Dream

I was a little under three and a half when I first went to Walt Disney World in Florida.

1983-378 copy

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And what a very different “World” it was then. The Magic Kingdom was there, of course and EPCOT (then EPCOT Center) was newly opened. But there were no other Disney parks. No Studios or Animal Kingdom. The water parks were Wet’n’Wild and Water Mania rather than the themed Disney extravaganzas that now exist. SeaWorld was there, as was Gatorland Zoo and of course the Kennedy Space Center, but there was no Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. We visited CircusWorld instead. The scale of things was big, of course it was, but it was nothing on how big it all is now.

1983-259 copy

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It still made an absolutely massive impact on me though, despite that fact that I was younger than Thomas is now.

In fact, I count a number of specific moments as amongst my very earliest conscious memories. Waking up in our hire car en route from the airport, but stopped by the side of the road, by the noise of rain hammering on the roof as a terrific Florida storm unfurled above us. Staring out in to the darkness in our beach-front Gulf Coast hotel, unable to comprehend jet-lag or why it was dark when my body was telling me the day was already many hours old. Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with my Dad as my Mum and my brother, too chicken to try it, waved from the bridge. I still remember exactly how that very first roller coaster ride felt, with my Dad’s arm wrapped around me. I feel the grin on my face.

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I’m on there somewhere!

I may not remember every detail. And some of my memories are possibly fabricated a little from the photographs – comparatively few though they were in the pre-digital era – and family stories. But I know it was absolute magic from the moment we arrived. It was completely detached from reality, brimming with the incredible, the improbable and the impossible. It’s absolutely fair to say that no other place on earth has ever had quite the same effect on me again. Different – wonderful, awe-inspiring – yes, but pure immersive magic, not even close.

It’s for that reason that I so often tell people that you can’t really be “too young” to go to Disney, and that anytime from the age three onwards even the “they won’t remember a thing” excuse doesn’t necessarily hold true. I’ve always maintained that kids need something big to hang the first memory they’ll retain to adulthood on. And it doesn’t come much bigger than Walt Disney World.

It’s also the reason that I’ve been dreaming of Thomas’s first trip since the moment I knew we were expecting him.

I remember looking forward, during my pregnancy, to being a family and doing things as a family. Introducing our child to the world and to all the fun things it holds and taking part in activities where a child is a necessary pre-requisite to participation. And whilst the latter isn’t true for Disney, recreating those moments of magic with my own child, being the one to make them happen was always something I just couldn’t wait to do.

This is a dream that I’ve always known I would eventually realise for my child. Quite possibly the very first dream I ever had for him, long before he was conceived.

And next year, it’s happening.

The intention was always next year, before he starts school and whilst we have more flexibility on dates. It was always meant to be next year, rather than this, because I’d hoped that baby number two would be approaching the age of three, and there would even have been time for baby number three to join us (sometime about now) and tag-along as a bit more than a newborn.

Yeah. None of that worked out, of course.

But we’ve stuck to the plan for next year anyway, despite my heart screaming to take Thomas this year instead. I hope the extra time will give him the crucial few centimetres of growth he needs to meet the height restrictions for some iconic rides (I was obviously taller than my son, or the height restrictions were lower in 1983, as he currently wouldn’t make it on to Big Thunder Mountain).

And in the mean time my dreams keep on growing. The more I read and the more I research, the more I can’t wait. For the moment that he sees the Cinderella Castle for the first time and recognises it as “The Dis-in-nee castle” from the introduction to every Disney film we’ve watched. For the moment he gets to meet his favourite characters and have their enormous character hands envelope his tiny one. For his excitement at the simplest things like the Magic Kingdom Railroad and the monorail system.

It’s hard to put Disney magic in to words, and I guess that if you haven’t felt it yourself, you’re quite possibly rolling your eyes at what I’ve built this up to be. And of course, by setting the bar of my expectations so high, I’m setting myself up for crushing disappointment if the reality doesn’t live up to the dream.

I know that it won’t exactly, because nothing ever does go quite how we imagine it. But I’m still confident that the realisation of such a long held dream will be magical, in new ways that I haven’t even dreamed.

And perhaps in 32 years time Thomas will still be reflecting on it, as he prepares to take his own child or children for the very first time too.

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I’m sharing this post in the #100DaysofDisney Linky
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9 Comments

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  1. Carie / Jul 18 2015

    I think you’re right about first memories needing to be a big thing to hang on to, I know mine is and I have no doubt that Thomas is going to love Disney! And three and a half year old you is just so cute!!

    • Caro / Jul 19 2015

      The way he talks at the moment, I think his trip to Berlin – at two and a half – could well be contender for Thomas’s first memories. He’s not stopped talking about it in the last year! If his reaction to Legoland was anything to go on, I’m sure he’ll be captivated by Disney 🙂

  2. Michelle / Jul 23 2015

    This is such a fantastic post! I LOVE looking at retro WDW photographs, and you have so many beauties here!

    It looks like you met characters from The Rescuers? Definitely don’t see them any more, and these days there are huge lines to meet the characters (but we always have to line up, even though my son is now 16 and we are adults!!)

    No one can know that feeling of the Disney Magic until they have a holiday at Walt Disney World, it’s why we’ve gone back time and time again, and why I work so hard to try and get us there!

    Thanks for sharing your Disney post with me on #100DaysOfDisney!

    • Caro / Jul 23 2015

      Thank you. I love retro Disney too, and I’m always looking for good old stuff online!

      I was sad when I learned that characters don’t roam the parks in the same way as they used too, but I totally get why. And at least it means it’s not a rugby scrum, even if the queues are long! (I’m thinking Anna and Elsa!)

      We’ve been back since the 1983 visit, but with other stuff getting in the way it’s been about 20 years now! Shocking! So much has changed. I’m super, super excited for next year as we have a full 3 weeks booked. I’ll be following along your Disney posts to keep me in the mood!

  3. Lucy / Jul 26 2015

    Amazing pictures. I last went 8 years ago, and my hubby and two girls have never been. But we have saved hard and are going in 92 days!!!! I agree that any age is the right age for a Disney trip, some of my best memories are at WDW!!! Enjoy your holiday next year, I have enjoyed the planning of ours so much too!!!

    • Caro / Jul 26 2015

      Thanks for your comment. 92 days will be here before you know it! Hope you all have a magical trip 🙂

  4. Those photos are amazing!

    Yes, definitely worth waiting till he’s over that height restriction if possible. They measure them with shoes on so big shoes are another option – I swear Crocs add at least half an inch!

  5. Penny @OnePennyTourist / Sep 2 2015

    Awww, love the old photos!

    I don’t really think you need to be worried about being let down by WDW, while it has changed over the years and had to move with the times a little bit, it’s still as wonderful as ever. We go every year and don’t even have kids 😀

    Have a magical trip!

    #100DaysofDisney

    • Caro / Sep 4 2015

      Thank you.

      I’ not so much worried about being let down by WDW as having built this trip, and introducing our son to it, up so much that when everything inevitably doesn’t turn out exactly how I imagine that I’ll be disappointed. I know it willbe great anyway though!

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