Monday, January 6, 2014

Disney World: A Tale of Survival

Disney. It's a whole bag of worms and princesses and crowds and anxiety and joy and manufactured magic. There's the wringing of hands and doubts about everything we stand for. About raising strong, confident, compassionate girls and doing what we can to steer them away from the commercial, from the illusion of fairy tales and the beauty myth.

When we told them on Christmas morning that we were going to Disney World, they were completely unimpressed. They had no idea what it meant. We had Laura's sister videotape their reaction. But there wasn't one. Fiona asked, with a puzzled look on her face: "We're going to Disney?" Cyd just stared at the Disney video, expressionless.

By the time we got to the airport, we finally convinced them that this was going to be so exciting. You'll go and you'll have fun, dammit.

Airport shenanigans.

Frankly, I just wanted to go to the beach.

We all travel well together, so just hanging out in a hotel room is vacation enough for us. Our first day, we swam in the hotel pool and enjoyed life.
This was the non-heated pool. Obviously.

Day two, we ventured to the Magic Kingdom. The kids were finally getting pumped. I was still secretly grinchful about the whole thing.

I want to give them everything.
I want them to be the happiest they can be, beyond what they can imagine.
I want to give them magic.

Our first ride was "It's a Small World." I've been on that ride as a cranky teenager and all I remember is boredom. But I put on my best face and away we went in our communal boats. The kids pointed to every. single. thing. on that ride. Their faces full of joy. "Look! Maman! Look! Mom!" They couldn't contain their amazement.  They pointed to everything with such glee that I knew I could never capture in a photo. It was pure and simple.

Shrieks of joy enveloped our two little boats. Everything clicked, then. It was all worth it. This is what Walt had in mind. The sheer amazement and happiness flowing freely on this fear-free ride. Fiona said it was the best thing on earth. During the ride, Cyd said: "I can't believe this is really happening!"

It was the same thing with PhilharMagic, a 3D cartoon featuring all the Disney favorites. There were squeals of surprise when Ariel's jewels were right in front of our eyes, seemingly easy to grasp. They both reached out to touch everything that came at them, illusions made real by the magic of childhood. I sat there, next to them, amazed that they believed. Amazed that they were so beside themselves with a joy I barely understood. Also, I thought that maybe we should get out more.

So maybe I was wrong. Maybe this is going to be OK. Maybe I should just chill the hell out.

Cyd LOVES Aurora. Mainly because of the pink.

You can't have too many photos of kids in front of the castle. You just can't.

Cyd's balloon popped right before we got to Mickey. Because she bit the ear. 

There was the fake smile of Princess Aurora and the thick crowd of tourists everywhere we turned. There were the inevitable parents yelling at their children and the 20 dollar Mickey Mouse balloons. But there was also the wonder on my children's faces when they met Cinderella and the tear I shed when they picked Cyd to be the Beast and Fiona to be Mrs. Potts in the Beauty and the Beast performance. There was so much waiting in line, but we were happy, on that first day, happy to wait 55 minutes to see Belle. Cyd wanted to ride the carousel over and over. And the castle, lit and beautiful, was a sight of wonder. Also, the people who work at Disney were friendly and helpful, completely qualified to handle the excessive crowds and general chaos. That in itself was magic.

We took some time to detox between parks, stopping at a nature preserve close to Disney.

And we took one measly day to go to the beach, Siesta Key, where Laura's sister and brother-in-law happened to be vacationing.

Our friends, Judith and Ron, surprised the kids by meeting us about halfway through our vacation. They are the epitome of patient, compassionate souls.

Overall, it was a good trip. We had just enough balance between the fake and genuine to get us through the experience and feel good about our choices. Sometimes, it's OK to go with the mainstream. Would I have preferred to spend all seven days exploring Florida beaches and nature preserves? Yes. But this gave the children a richer experience. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

When we got back to Fort Wayne, we all went to Wunderkammer for the "Reject HJR-6" rally. So, we're still the activist lesbian moms we always were. Disney did not break us.

This girl loves her dessert.

Butterbeer is surprisingly delicious, despite its lack of alcohol.

The Dr. Seuss carousel was the bomb.

We were tired by the time we got to Epcot on New Year's Eve. 

Peace out.

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