When I was a kid, Disney World was a big deal.
People didn't go to Disney like they do now. The first time we went it was more of a once in a lifetime type experience. One year for Christmas, my sister and I opened the last gift to find a tour guide book for Disney World, and we were literally counting down the days until we went three months later. It was an amzing trip.
Over the course of the next 15 years, we went back a bunch of times (four, I think) all the way up through my college years. It got easier, since my grandparents moved to Florida. When I was stationed in Germany, I went to Disneyland Paris. When my wife and I were stationed in Japan we went to Disneyland Tokyo--Princess was two at the time, and Cowboy was just a newborn. We had fun, but it wasn't what it could be since they were so young.
When my unbelieveably busy schedule abruptly ended towards the end of March, I saw our only opportunity to go to Disneyland and quickly bought tickets. I thought it would be fun--three days in Disneyland with Princess, now 7, and Cowboy, who had just turned 6, and Odie. I was hesitant because I didn't think Cowboy would be able to go on many of the rides--but we said screw it and went anyway. On a scale of 1-10 I figured we'd have about a 7 amount of fun.
Boy was I wrong.
On a scale of 1-10, we had about a 22.
I learned that the perfect age to go to Disneyland is around 6 years old. California Adventure is more for the older kids. When we would go to Disney World, the Magic Kingdom was fun--but Epcot rocked. Magic Kingdom was for little kids. People here told me that three days would be plenty enough time to see everything and still spend eight hours a day there.
We got to the park at around 9 am, and, for three days in a row, left at around midnight. For the first day Odie didn't sleep. At all. Didn't cry, didn't whine, just announced when he was hungry. He got to go on around 50% of the rides. The monkies were absolutely perfect angels, for 72 hours straight. I really couldn't figure it out, until the last day.
Walking around that place is like being in a dream. I'm not sure exactly what it was. But for three days, none of us cared about anything else in the world except being together as a family and having fun together. I didn't care about how much we were spending, because from the first minute I felt like it was worth every penny. The park has something weird in the water there--like a perfect happiness that all of the cares in the world were gone for 72 hours. The stars in my kids eyes were so bright that we never wanted to leave. I had more fun as an adult with them than I ever had going to these places as a kid myself.
I could go on forever about the experience we had--but I think one moment summed it up for me.
On the last day we were supposed to leave mid-day and head home. We changed our minds, called hotels.com and got a room, and stayed until the fireworks at the end. It was an amazing, magical, dazzling show, including a woman dressed up and lit up like Tinkerbell flying around the Castle on a zip-wire. With the music, lights, and crowd around, I stood there holding Princess in one arm, and Cowboy in the other so they could see above everyone's heads.
That's when it occurred to me. They are growing up. Someday I'm not going to be able to do this with them anymore. Someday they're going to be too big for me to hold and watch Tinkerbell fly, watch pirates shoot at each other across the sea, or learn how to be a Jedi and really believe that they had the Force to fight Darth Vader. Sooner than I know, they won't want to do this with SW and I like they do now.
But for one moment, with "When You Wish Upon a Star" playing in the background and the darkness lit up from fireworks overhead, everything in my life was perfect. It was a moment that will live forever in my heart, holding those two, with Odie asleep beside me in his stroller, and my beautiful wife beside him, watching the Castle light up in front of us.
It was one of the greatest days of my life.