The Not-So-Magic Kingdom

I know. Put me on the “bad mother” list. It took until my kids were teenagers for me to check the box for that mandatory childhood Walt Disney World vacation. It was the earliest I could manage the trip to Central Florida. Mickey and Minnie just had to be patient – I am the customary late bloomer.

After all this time of anticipation was “The Land of Magic where ‘all our dreams come true’” really as it is advertised? Hardly. In what was supposed to be all thrills and smiles, life as perfection … it was really just fancied and prettied up normality. I guess you can’t take humanity out of the princess. Mostly what I observed were overly tired and screaming toddlers being forced to smile for the camera yet one more time, exhausted parents who looked like they were on an expensive never-ending walking marathon and endless crowds with envied eyes for the FastPass+ Line. I think I got my money’s worth in people watching alone.

At one point, my daughter and I gave up our planned agenda (you really have to have one) to go “princess spotting.” It should be a new sport. We veered from Tomorrowland back to Fantasyland just to snap pictures of random girls that were donned from head to at least knee in perfect costume, all in hopes of attracting their dapper prince. (The shoes tended to be on the casual side – a major fashion faux pas for true princesses, I imagine, but, hell, this is the 21st century and Disney World is not easy on the feet.) Most adorned girls even had the hair thing going – greased back in a tight bun with the faux diamond tiara topper. We were impressed with their determination, if not downright jealous. We wanted to shed our shorts and t-shirts for their more glamourous life. One that guaranteed our dreams would come true.

Instead, we settled for reality Disney. A teenage son who chose to stay in the hotel room and order pizza rather than experience the Magic Kingdom. An angry mother (that be me!) who stupidly reminded him how much money this trip was costing me. A rainy day at Epcot with cheesy Mickey Mouse ponchos, extra and useless flimsy soaked paper maps, included. A deaf Uber driver who gave our grouchy and tired selves cold water, breathe mints and a warm smile at the end of a long day. A must-buy action photo on Splash Mountain, the woman in front’s hilarious flying Kramer hair, an added bonus. Countless roller coaster rides – all guaranteed motion sickness for me (“where is the closest vomit bag?”) while simultaneously bringing sheer joy to my daughter (“let’s go again, mom!”).

You get the idea. Even in make-believe, fairy dust and all, reality wins. We are stuck being human, having a human experience. Did my family and I have a perfect vacation in a perfect place? Absolutely not. We fought. We made up. We laughed. We sang out loud. We ate too much. We spent too much. We embarrassed ourselves. We embarrassed each other. In seemingly endless lines, with sweat dripping, we were miserable. Yet, in unexpected moments of my son’s spontaneous humor, we peed in our pants. Our adventure was far from ideal but it was wonderful.

Yes, life demands inclusivity. Even Walt Disney himself could not create a flawless world.

Now, if I can just get some fairy with a magic wand to zap that into my thick head, I am sure I can walk off happily into the sunset. Do you think that’s possible?

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