This week I’m exposing my three children to all the excesses that American culture provides. Yes, we’re spending February vacation in Orlando. Between a steady diet of French fries, non-stop entertainment, and promises to make their dreams come true, it’s no wonder that everyone is grouchy, overtired and feeling (and smelling) slightly greasy.
Is it any wonder I have a love/hate relationship with Disney? But today, let’s talk about loving Disney.
Loving Disney is a generational sin. My parents love Disney. I think the magic, the fantasy, the promise of “happily ever after” completely appealed to my Chinese immigrant parents, so they started taking me to Disneyland when I was 3. Apparently, they made the mistake of watching “Snow White” in the theater first thing. I was so enchanted I refused to leave so our first Disneyland adventure consisted of watching “Snow White” 3 times in a row.
When my step-grandmother passed away 9 years ago, Mama called with the news and asked me to fly to San Francisco for the funeral. Despite how that meant missing the one major work event of the summer, I agreed. Mama called back 2 minutes later with, “Since you’re coming, why don’t you bring all 3 kids and we’ll fly down to Disneyland afterwards?”
As Scott and I talked over her proposal, me thinking it was crazy to fly solo across the country with a 5, 3 and 1 year old who wasn’t yet walking, he reminded me that my parents had been hinting at Disney since Ling was born. “If something happens to them so that they never get to do Disneyland with their grandchildren, you will live with regret for the rest of your life,” he warned.
So we went. Luckily, my brother (who’s 12 years younger than me and had no clue about kids) flew with us so he could carry the car seat along with some of the carry-ons. Once on the plane, he leaned back and then slept the whole way to California. As I took yet another child to the bathroom, a flight attendant with no trace of irony looked at my brother snoozing with his mouth open and said, “It’s good you have someone to help.”
“That’s my brother, not my husband,” I snapped back, “Believe me, my husband would not be allowed to sleep like that over a transcontinental flight.”
After the funeral, we did four straight days of Disney. Mama booked the Best Western that was literally across the street from the front gates, which meant we could push through the turnstiles the minute the park opened, leave for lunch, give kids a chance to nap/swim/rest, then come back later in the afternoon.
I didn’t realize the time we’d spend chasing characters for photo-ops and on the last day one of my kids threw up at 10 a.m., which meant Baba got to go home with her (and the Disney staff had the mess cleaned within 5 minutes!), but overall, we achieved the ancestral task of visiting the Tuan mecca and had a great time doing it.
This trip I’m doing a lot of Disney sans husband, since the reason we’re here is for Scott to attend a conference, but we did overlap with my sister and her family for one day at Magic Kingdom—doing Disney with at least one fellow Tuan definitely makes the experience better.
So here’s my top ten for what I love about Disney:
10. Every “cast member” I meet is helpful, polite and friendly. When the parking attendant said, “Have a magical day” after charging $14 to my credit card, I even smiled!
9. 9. “It’s a Small World”—just love sitting in my boat going through air-conditioning while a spectacle of happy, celebratory, multi-cultural robots sing “There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware it’s a small world afterall. . .”
8. 8. The wonder and magic for young children
7. 7. Music, dancing and happy stuffed animals
6. 6. Splash Mountain with its “laughing place” and “zip-a-dee-do-dah”
5. 5. Buzz Lightyear’s Intergalactic Spin even though I’m terrible at video games so come out ranked “Space cadet” each time
4. 4. Going with my sister, who has inherited “loving Disney” and also loves planning. She subscribes to Ridemax and runs programs for weeks before the trip, calculating how we can maximize our Disney experience via Fastpasses, a runner and all this with 6 kids in tow.
3. 3. Typhoon Lagoon—a waterpark on steroids that even better, let me sit on a beach chair in the warm sun and read for 4 hours while my kids had fun.
2. 2. The smoked turkey leg I ate for dinner--$8 for a pretty tasty hunk of meat that made me feel like a cave woman as grease smeared my face.
1. There are no waits in the bathroom lines—a miracle for women—and the bathrooms are clean!
So far we’ve been to the Magic Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon. Today we took the day off to sleep late, gorge at an Indian buffet, and ate at Cold Stone Creamery for dinner.
Now the debate is whether to go to Hollywood Studios, Epcot or Animal Kingdom with our last Disney day, and how to best cross over to the dark side, brave the crowds to see Harry Potter at Universal.
Will Harry be worth it? Because Mickey sure is. . .