Blog - April 29,2012

Walt Disney World and My Dad

I’m a huge fan of MousePlanet.com and of many of the writers they have on their staff. Steve Russo in particular always captures the spirit of what it is to be a Disney fan. But a recent article he wrote, That Disney Something, although illuminating, didn’t quite capture the spirit of why I believe most people love going back to Walt Disney World.

The premise of the article is why many of us, upon days of arriving back home from a Disney vacation, are “already missing it.” Steve refers to it as the “Disney Feeling,” while at the same time acknowledging that phrase doesn’t quite capture it all.

It got me thinking, if it is truly more than a feeling, how can one best describe it. For some reason that made me think of the Al McGuire, former basketball coach at Marquette University. He was fond of saying, “Sports is a coffee break.”

As usual, Al was great at getting to the heart of the matter by using one of his unique analogies. What he meant was that every day people are caught up in their daily lives: working to provide for the family, dealing with their bosses, paying the bills and the mortgage, taking care of the kids and trying to balance it all. The only time people have time to truly talk about sports is during their coffee breaks. That allows people to forget about all of the above for those precious fifteen minutes.

So imagine multiplying that for a day or two or three – maybe even a week. That is the Disney experience.

From the time we enter the property, we are transported to another world where our everyday cares and worries disappear. Walking through the Walt Disney Railroad underpass and into the Magic Kingdom immediately moves us into a truly magical fantasy world that permeates every one of our senses.

Although only one area of the park is officially named Fantasyland, it should be the sub-title for every other “land” or park we visit while we’re there. With Disney’s attention to detail and theming, we are completely immersed into a more carefree time and place.

The smell of popcorn, the look and feel of the old Main Street buildings, the happy music, the cobblestone beneath our feet and one of the Disney cast members saying, “Welcome home,” all lend themselves to a place where we can shut out our daily worries, and lose ourselves in a fantasy world.

Even at night, for those lucky enough to stay on property, it doesn’t stop. The various resorts and hotels keep us immersed in being someplace else; some place happy and warm and inviting.

I, like quite a few people, grew up watching The Mickey Mouse Club, Spin and Marty, Davey Crockett, Zorro and countless other Disney-produced TV shows and movies. In every case, we could forget about what happened that day or what might be on the horizon for tomorrow and live in another world for an hour or more.

That’s why I love writing fantasy novels. I love to read, but my favorite books have always been the ones that take me to far away, often historical, places and toward bigger-than-life people who can make me forget all about “real” life for a few moments. Writers like, Larry McMurtry, Dan Brown, Steve Berry and J.K. Rowling rejuvenate my soul and refresh me so I can take on another day. They capture the reader’s attention and draw them into the other realities they have created.

When my mother died some years back, my dad, who had been married to her for more than fifty years, became understandably depressed. My dad had always been the beacon in my life, the person I wanted to emulate. He worked in a very stressful job, in the same building in downtown Milwaukee for 30 years, but he never complained.

He and my mother were one another’s best friends, equally sharing in all family decisions long before it was popular and customary to do so. For vacation, my dad would take off half-days from work and they would spend the afternoon watching the Milwaukee Braves. They went to over 60 games together every year, sitting in the bleachers and bringing in a six-pack in a portable vinyl cooler before that tradition was eventually banned.

During the fall and early winter, they followed the Vince Lombardi Packers either on TV or at the games when they were played at old Milwaukee County Stadium. In the winter, to tide them over until the Braves season started again, my dad coached CYO basketball. My mom never missed a single game he coached.

This was their Walt Disney World.

So obviously, when my mother passed away, the family was concerned for my dad’s well being, both physically and mentally.

I hit on the idea of taking him with me to Walt Disney World, and for those five days he was his old self. Although, I’m sure he often thought how he would have loved sharing this all with my mom, Bette, it was evident in everything we did that for those five days his depression had been lifted greatly. He had become lost in the fantasy in which only Disney can so totally immerse someone.

I’m sorry to say that was my dad’s first and last visit to the Magic Kingdom, but for five magical days he was a little kid again. And just think, “It all started with a mouse.”

 

The 8th Mayan Prophecy by Robert G. Peterson
The 8th Mayan Prophecy
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