When your name is Shannon Sullivan, there are certain expectations on how St. Patrick’s Day will go. Growing up outside of New York City, among several first and second-generation Irish families, the question “where is your mother from” would get the name of county, like Mayo or Cavan, in the Old Country, since to say, “Ireland,” would be too obvious. My father, a German passing as Irish by playing the snare drum in a pipe band would say “Rockland,” our hometown, and get such a laugh, people rarely asked again.
In 2007, we spent St. Patrick’s Day at Magic Kingdom. I purchased the green mouse ears, and passed on the idea of taking two preschoolers to Raglan Road, but hoped our Advanced Dining Reservation at Chef Mickey’s would offer a chance to enjoy a Guinness and some soda bread.
I booked the trip, a gift from my parents, in hopes of sharing memories of some of the better parades, concerts and Céilidhs with the people who bought me my first set of pipes. Silly me. My mom and dad paid the bill, but had their own parades and concerts to attend that day. They had purchased a home in an “active senior community” and could not be pulled away on Irish Christmas. No matter. My party of four put on our green shirts and looked for some culture in the parks.
While I did not even think of heading to Epcot, since I remembered from a visit in the 90s that Ireland was folded into the United Kingdom pavilion, (the main idea of several Irish songs) so that wouldn’t fly. I sought out Leprechaun Pluto, or something similar, at Magic Kingdom. On a hot day, the closest I could come to finding harp or a jug of punch was to visit It’s A Small World. Of course, as we passed the Emerald Isle part, my son was fast asleep. The motion of the sea, I suppose.
He woke in time to require a Pull-Up change and I desperately needed a cold something. We were right in front of Cinderella’s Castle, so I went to the hostess and begged her, knowing from my experience at a pub waitress at Ireland’s 32 that we were in the ‘magic time’ when lunch was about to become dinner, so perhaps, we could tour the room and just get a soda or some ice cream, character-free?
“Would you like to have dinner now? We could seat you all if you’d like to eat now.”
Then I said the stupidest, most Irish-Catholic thing I’ve every said, in the face of the ultimate Disney miracle (short of being offered to stay upstairs, overnight), “Thank you, but I don’t want Chef Mickey’s to be mad at us for not coming. We are supposed to be there at 9.”
Now, every NDP knows that Cinderella trumps Goofy, but I needed to be told. The hostess assured me that she could contact Chef Mickey’s and cancel my reservations, and Cinderella was ready to meet my boys, in their Celtics shirts and Gaelic football jerseys. They looked like hooligans in our complimentary photo, broke their swords in the first 30 seconds, and as the peanut product-free chicken nuggets flew, I reminded them that this is why we never eat at castles in Virginia.
Still, whenever I call for reservations, I mention the day we walked up to Cinderella’s Royal Table and were seated right away. I’ve left many a cast member in disbelief, but I chalk it up to the luck of the Irish.
If you are lucky enough to be at Walt Disney World on St. Patrick’s Day, you are lucky enough.
A few ideas:
Find the pin of Mickey playing the pipes (that my mother bought me).
Ask the Dapper Dan’s to sing a ditty for you.
Go to Raglan Road at Downtown Disney for some great music
Embrace globalization and visit Epcot. You can get a nice Guinness at The Rose and Crown, which you can’t get at The Magic Kingdom.
Ride It’s A Small World, but wait until after nap time!
Contributed by: Shannon S. (NDM#174). Shannon is our resident special needs specialist and parenting expert as well as creator of Meltdown Free Disney.
Shannon Sullivan, creator of MeltdownFreeDisney, is an early intervention specialist for children with special needs and writes about assistive technology, parenting and education by day (or whenever the house is quiet). She has 2 young princes (or pirates) and lives in the metro DC area. She is NDM # 174.