“Can we go back to the Disney House now?”
My grandson Connor asked this question quite frequently last week when we were in Disney World to celebrate his fourth birthday, usually after an hour or two away from our Vacation Club resort at Old Key West. The two-bedroom apartment did seem like home, with it’s spacious living area, fully equipped kitchen, and covered balcony overlooking a quiet lagoon with ducks and herons paddling happily along its banks. Disney encourages that feeling with a large “Welcome Home” sign at the entrance and by training it’s staff to greet you with a cherrful "Welcome Home" each time you enter.
Connor is a homebody, like the rest of his family. At age four his favorite things to do are play with magnetic letters, draw speedometers, take walks, read books, and build with Lego’s. That’s basically my list of favorite activities too, (perhaps minus the speedometers and Legos, but those choices can be attributed to his grandfather). The first couple of days of the trip, we didn’t even enter a Park. Instead, we took a boat ride to the shopping area, had lunch and played around in the huge Lego store.
“Let’s go back to the Disney House now!” he chirped excitedly after a couple of hours. We left his mom and dad behind to continue shopping and exploring, and boarded the slow boat back to the resort. When we arrived at our room, he raced in to grab his favorite book of the trip (The Berenstain Bears, Too Much Birthday).
“I love Disney World,” he sighed happily, as we snuggled onto the couch together to read. He had no concept of the “wonders” awaiting him at Magic Kingdom or Epcot. The Disney House was all the excitement he needed.
Once we did make it to a Park, we were all overwhelmed with the scores and scores of people, vying for space to even walk. Lines were horrendously long, attractions and resturants were booked, children were screaming and crying, parents were tugging and scolding. We consider ourselves Disney World veterans, having been there countless times since our first family trip in 1989. But it didn’t take long before we all yearned for the sanctuary of our Disney House.
“Am I getting old, or is this just really not the same as it used to be?” asked my 35-year old son, who probably has more Disney experience than just about anyone in his age group.
“Wait until you’re 60,” I replied ruefully.
“That’s VERY old!” Connor offered helpfully.
As we wended our way through the multitudes, I almost laughed at the absurdity. Here were all these thousands of people, spending thousands of dollars, trying to give their families a meaningful experience. When often the most meaningful experience of all– especially to little children - is simply spending time together, feeling the loving attention of their parents and grandparents.
Not that Connor didn’t enjoy seeing Mickey and Minnie in the Main Street parade, riding the Speedway cars, and (especially!) meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in person. But I suspect some of his favorite and most long-lasting memories will be of the time we spent together at our Disney home, talking, laughing, sitting on the porch watching for boats to come by.
I know mine will be.