Before we got into a rental car earlier this month, in a race against the clock that we ultimately lost, we did a fair amount of traveling for work and play that had my brain whirring with the activity of a thousand blog entries.
Exactly three years ago, just before Johnny and I got back together, I was casually dating someone who convinced me I wanted to go to Disney with him. I didn't really have any idea what this guy was like but he seemed sweet and he called a lot and he tried hard to make me feel special. I put my suspicions aside - what kind of person wants to spend time at Disney again and again, even alone, when he could afford to go anywhere in the world? only someone seriously screwed up, right? - and against my better judgment, agreed to go for a long weekend.
I shouldn't have. This guy was nice and all. But he had issues. It's not my place to discuss them but they all came out as soon as we left New York City and were stuck with each other in the Happiest Place on Earth. On top of that, he was so excited about being at Disney that he chose the theme parks we visited, he chose the rides and all our entertainment. He allowed me zero input. He shot down any suggestions I made about what I might want to see or do. He got angry at me when the virtual rides gave me such motion sickness I refused to go on another. And as soon as we got back to the hotel room every night he turned his back to me to watch the Yankee game. Still, I tried to have a good attitude. I loved the rollercoasters, I was impressed by the shows and the costumes. I really did try to have fun and honestly it wasn't hard.
But I felt manipulated. Disney clearly puts a fortune into shaping its image, to anticipating its clients' every last need or desire. I can imagine that their board of directors consists of psychologists who are also marketing experts, able to tap into the human psyche in a way that makes us all feel good and makes them a mint. Someone told us that they own the air space above them, so it's a no-fly zone. That's terrifying to me, especially once I learned that they have 40+ square miles of property in Orlando. Still. Whatever they're doing, it works. You want to wear the ears, the hats, the overpriced mouse-themed junk. You want to wait on line for hours to ride the rides and meet tiny little short people wearing ridiculous makeup or mouse/duck/dog/whatever suits. You tear up at the fireworks and hearing the theme music to the movies you watched as a child. I felt like an idiot for falling for it all - though I resisted the ears - and I vowed I'd never go back. In the end I think we were both glad to get home and get away from each other for good.
Animal welfare folks know that every three years, the HSUS Animal Care Expo is at Disney. Three years ago, Expo was happening at the same time I was there with this guy. I'd already made plans with him so I didn't try to attend the conference. But I did want to meet my friends and coworkers who were there too. He nixed that. I had a good friend in Orlando I really wanted to see. He nixed that too. I felt like crap that I'd let someone boss me around like that, even for one lousy weekend. So I was done with him like I was done with Disney.
Anyway. When Expo was once again at Disney this year, my life was totally different. Three years ago the idea of getting back with Johnny seemed so far fetched, so unlikely. But here we are, together, married, parents to one, expecting another. When the time came to plan the trip, I knew he and Thora were coming with me.
I figured dragging a fifteen month old kid to Disney was less about making the kid happy and more about making the parents happy. After all, Thora will play happily with a paper bag or a wooden spoon. She doesn't need these magical bells and whistles. But I had to be there anyway and I figured even if she doesn't remember it, I will. So we went. And she loved it. No kidding. And so did we. Having a kid (and a wonderful husband) to enjoy it with made all the difference to me. I wish there had been better vegan food options, but thanks to our friend Andrea we made regular snack stops at Whole Foods. Overall we had a total blast.
Here she is on her first ride, A Mad Tea Party:
And her second, a carousel:
Refusing to wear ears for more than a second:
On the "It's a Small World" ride with dorky teary-eyed Mama singing her the song and pointing out the dolls:
And though we all look terrible, here's proof that even the cranky goth set of parents can get into the castle and all that nonsense:
It's so weird and wonderful to watch her grow from a baby into a girl. She's slimming down while she grows tall, so she's getting her daddy's long, skinny legs. She wants to run and jump but isn't quiiiiite coordinated enough, so in the Florida heat, dressed in shorts and a tank top, she tripped over her own shoes repeatedly and ended up with scraped knees and a scraped forehead.
And just look at how happy she is, our sweet little girl.
She helped Mama with her conference work.
She traveled well in our laps and in her own seat. She flew like a champ!
She LOVED every bus ride. Her new favorite word is "bus." Sitting in a bus and looking for other buses on the road (and finding lots of them) made every trip we took a pleasant one.
She gave a ton of kisses (some with a lot of sloppy wet tongue, which resulted in me saying "My baby kisses like a fourteen year old boy!")
We visited with Andrea, our friend in the area. Andrea was clever and kind enough to buy a car seat (that she later returned - take THAT Walmart!) so we didn't have to bring ours. Thora loved sitting in the fuzzy pink seat and got her first taste of Minnie in a little doll she promptly lost. After she "met" Minnie, we got her a new one.
And we spent a day with Andrea at Universal. More rides, more running around, more scraped knees.
Here she is, back at Disney, with Mickey and Minnie the first time:
and the second:
Best of all, we enjoyed the whole thing as a family.
So thanks, Disney, for the memories. We'll be back in three years for more!