Last year, after my wife and I took our first trip to Walt Disney World as a couple (my 3rd trip, my wife's 1st), many people gave me odd looks when I told them that we planned on going back in a year.
Most people don't realize how important Disney is to me and in some sense, my sanity.
I don't really look back into my childhood with very many fond memories. I had a task master of a mother and a dad who was gone a lot during my early years (he was out of the house for 3 out of every 4 weeks for my first 5-6 years) so that he can make a living for our family. My mom knows she was who she was back then and honestly, I know she did the best she could with what she knew at the time and if she could go back with her current knowledge would do it totally different.
Well, until I was 8 years old, we lived in a small Southern California town called San Marcos. While we lived there, my mom would get odd jobs and our family would often collect aluminum cans for recycling to raise money for an annual trip to Disneyland.
As I mentioned in my interview for Biblioadonis at The Disney Geeks Blog, my first memory of Disney was at Disneyland where I was terrified by the Wicked Witch character at the Disneyland parade. This was on one of our many trips to Disneyland. I stand corrected. We didn't just go for Christmas because I can remember through the fog of time sitting through what I'm thinking is the Bicentennial Parade that Disneyland did for the 4th of July.
When it came to our going to Disney, it wasn't hard to convince my mom to go. She LOVES fireworks and no one does fireworks like Disney. So, it didn't take much convincing to go if the money was there.
I really don't remember much about going to the parks, but there is this Pavlovian response of calm and happiness that I experience when I think about going to a Disney theme park. I know, without really remembering the details about it, that I enjoyed myself. Despite the fact that I remember that I spent many a trip on the Haunted Mansion riding it with my little brother with my eyes clenched shut during the opening sequence (until the ballroom) and then closing them again during the graveyard scene. I also remember quite clearly the Little Leota at the end of the ride reminding people to bring their "Death Certificates" with them next time.
I also remember riding the Pirates of the Caribbean. I even told my little niece to not be ashamed of being afraid of Pirates because I too was freaked out by the skeletons in the beginning. But, I eventually got over it and it's now one of my most favorite rides. There was also Mr. Toads wild ride, Peter Pan's Flight and It's A Small world. Once that song gets into your head, only death will pry it out.
I think between The Haunted Mansion and Snow White's Scary Adventure, my parents got the most drama when trying to get me to ride Snow White. It all comes down to that darn Wicked Witch character in the parade.
In 1979, my family moved away from Southern California to the wonderful area of the country known as the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. The downside was that we didn't get to go to Disneyland anymore. But there was Walt Disney World on this coast, but my parents couldn't swing trips here as easily as they did to the little park that Walt built.
That changed in 1985. My mom was insistent we travel to Walt Disney World on a package that pretty much allowed you to prepay for everything including meals. It's modern counterpart would be the Platinum Magic Your Way Package. At this time, you only had the two parks: The Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center (eventually Epcot dropped it's last name). At EPCOT, the Living Seas was not there and Captain Eo was being advertised as "Coming soon". Since I was a big fan of Michael Jackson's Thriller I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't there yet.
I had a blast on this trip, my dad took tons of pictures (which I've asked him to locate so I can digitize and archive). We came back swearing we'd be coming back again.
Well, that never happened. In 1986, we ended up moving overseas and in 1992 we planned on trying to make a trip down again to celebrate my brother's graduation from high school. But, my dad lost his job and that scrapped the plans.
I got to go down in 1995 as part of my participation in the National Conference for Phi Beta Lambda. As many convention attendees, I pretty much spent my time in the parks. But, I was flying solo and that is just not quite the same as going with people.
Well, fast forward to 2001. At this point, I've pretty much been denying my appreciation of things Disney since 1995. I just didn't think it was normal for a male to like Disney at this adult age. I was sure that people would view me as a child predator or something. Well, in 2001, I met my wife. She was and is an very avid Disney fan. I swear you could play a couple bars of most songs from movie soundtracks and she'd know what movie it came from, what the song's name is and be able to sing it. Since her voice is awesome, I never minded her singing the songs all the time.
It didn't take long before we talked about getting married and where we'd like to Honeymoon. It was a no-brainer....Walt Disney World. But, it wouldn't be. Neither of our jobs would really let us take the time off after we got married. So, it took until 2006, our 4.5 year anniversary to make it to Walt Disney World. Granted, we had been going to Disneyland every year since we had gotten married. My wife's mom lived a hour away from Anaheim. But, this was not Walt Disney World and the fact that my wife had never been made the desire to go that much stronger.
We went on the Platinum Magic Your Way Package and lived it up. We loved it so much, we joined the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and that is how we'll be going again this year.
So, after reading all that I just wrote, you may be asking yourself, "What does that have to do with anything."
Well, I'm a type-A workaholic personality. That is the main reason it took so long for my wife and I to get to Disney in the first place. Well, once I got back to the parks, it was like I was 6 again at Disneyland. There were no responsibilities, no worries, no concerns. My wife would beg to differ because I was stressing about making our Advanced Dining Reservations on time, but I was having a blast.
Going to the Disney parks is how I relax.
But it's not just the parks. It's also the movies and the collectibles. To most people who know me, I'm most associated with Grumpy and Scrooge McDuck and I like to collect anything related to those characters. My wife and I own over 50 Disney movies and we love watching them. Who cares that you know the plots (and in my wife's case the songs), they are just great to watch. They make me happy.
So, to tie all this into one simple paragraph. I am in a relationship with the Mouse because Mickey and his friends make me happy. I often don't know how to have fun until I enter a Disney theme park. Walt knew how to make people have fun even if it was a foreign concept to them.