Back in 2004, I organized a Grand Gathering at Walt Disney World for a family reunion on my father’s side. Those memories are some of the last great times of my relatively care-free life before “it” happened.
By the end of that year, our family discovered we had acquired a medical condition and that our youngest daughter was facing the possibility of brain damage. I was devastated. As I watched my obsessed Disney lifestyle disintegrate into a chaotic mess of doctor’s appointments, supplement schedules, special diets and medical treatments, I wondered if my dreams of raising a Disney-focused family could survive. But mostly, I was fraught with fear that my little one would never be able to understand the joy that comes from surrendering to Disney neurosis and leading a Disney Driven Life. The prospect of this was a crushing notion that I was not ready to consider.
Almost all the best times of my life have taken place at WDW. Being a native Floridian, I was practically weaned there. Childhood milestones, school trips, youth group events, choir performances, even spontaneous trips with friends that involved secretly sneaking away for the day without my parents’ knowledge . . . it didn’t matter what the occasion. All roads led to Disney. This coupled with the incessant Disney media machine that provided films, soundtracks, entire Saturday mornings of cartoons, and the highly addictive New Mickey Mouse Club (with Damon Pampolina) was a spell-binding combination for me. So from a young age I developed specific dreams that made WDW the centerpiece of my very bright future, and I wanted nothing less for my three precious mouseketeers.
We’ve traveled a very hard road since then and come a very long way. All of our children have seen a vast improvement in their health, and by adhering to their medical diet, most of their physical and neurological issues are kept at bay. But while a degree of our health has returned, our finances have not. Being consumed by medical expenses, I watched our savings disappear long ago. This is one of the factors that have kept our family from vacationing for many years.
But this year, DH (Dear Husband) and I will mark our 10th anniversary. I am stunned when I acknowledge it. Ten full years have passed since we “tied the knot” and spent our first week of marriage coming and going from a water-view room at Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort. That was a memorable week! It was my first time visiting all the theme parks in one trip. It was my first time going to Disney’s Blizzard Beach. It was my first time staying on property in a bonafide Disney hotel. And, having entered into the sacred institution of marriage, it was my first time having . . . . Yes, WDW is a magical location for “first times.”
Now I am approaching a decade of marriage, and I can’t bear the thought of WDW being absent from this major milestone. In fact, I can sense my neurosis get turned up a notch in response to this horrifying idea. It may be the very thing to put me over the edge and cause a complete mental breakdown.
DH struggles to see my impending crisis. He lived a quiet childhood in a small town that is tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley. His parents had no interest in cute animated characters or their home base in Orlando, so DH spent all of his impressionable years void of much Disney exposure. I may never understand why Child Protective Services didn’t feel this was cause for concern. But I suppose the warm, loving and stable familial relationships that existed were barely enough to keep this agency from knocking on their door.
Nevertheless, DH has always carried “baggage” as a result of his deprived youth. It has handicapped him in terms of Disney devotion, and it has frequently prevented him from seeing the importance of a Disney Driven Life. I have endeavored, over the years, to fill this void of his by taking him to WDW during our courtship, honeymoon and initial years of parenthood, filling our time at home with intellectual conversation on Disney subjects. Admittedly, this has—indeed—assisted his recovery from his Disney-depraved condition and even inspired brief, infrequent displays of enthusiasm for Walt’s creation. But he still has a long way to go before my therapy sessions will release him into a neurotic-about-Disney state-of-mind.
As DH considers my plea for a Disney celebration, he shakes his head. There are an incredible amount of circumstances to overcome. First, the rigid supplement schedule and complicated medical diet that my children are on makes it almost impossible to leave them in the care of others. Secondly, we would have to secure a place with a fully equipped kitchen since the children would be coming and their diet requires all of their meals to be made from scratch. Thirdly, we would have to secure a place on Disney property because meal preparations are lengthy and the need to return to our kitchen every few hours eliminates the viability of a commute. And lastly, our budget cannot withstand such a plan.
I grab my own hair in frustration. This cannot be happening! As I squint my eyes and wrinkle my forehead, I feel a headache coming on. I will surely become terminally ill if I cannot bring this about. There must be a way! THERE MUST BE A WAY! I mentally pull myself back from the brink of the despairing abyss that is about to overtake me. “There must be a way,” I manage to calmly tell DH. “Well, I can’t find it,” he remarks, “but if you want to figure it out, ‘be our guest.’” DH gets a smug look on his face. He is pleased to have used the Beauty and the Beast mantra so cleverly in his verbal challenge.
I stand in shock at his snide remark. Did he actually just question my ability to solve this Mickey dilemma? How dare he even consider that insurmountable obstacles can stop a NDM from getting to WDW when she finally makes up her mind to go! He will gravely regret the day that he underestimated the vacation realization skills of a NDM. I am going to make him eat crow (or at least a chocolate Mickey bar) when we find ourselves in Orlando a few months from now.
For the moment, there is nothing else to be said. There is only work to be done. I pull up my sleeves, pull back my hair and slightly tip my Mickey Mouse ears beanie forward in a way that signifies I mean business. “Move out of my way,” I roughly assert as I push DH out of my path. “I have a date with the internet tonight,” I inform. There is a Disney task to be managed, and I fully intend to manage it.
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