One day in fifth grade, our teacher asked the class who went to Disneyworld or Disneyland, everyone raised their hand, myself included. I was lying but I learned my lesson. A few years ago, the same situation arose where the teacher asked who had been to one of the Disney theme parks and I was one of the few kids who didn’t raise their hands. My friends were shocked that anyone had not been at this point in their lives. They took it for granted like a rite of passage. I hadn’t expected that so many kids had been already. Apparently, I missed out on a collective experience and felt like a weirdo for it.
The closest I ever came was the summer of my 10th birthday. My parents had arranged for me to stay with some cousins who I’d never met and for them to take me to Disneyworld. It was supposed to be my birthday present. My older brother had already been so I was excited. Not as much to go but to be able to talk about it in the annual “What I Did For Summer Vacation” essay that was waiting for me in September. About a week or so before I was supposed to head to Florida, my mother called my cousin to check on things. I’ll never forget that phone call. We were in the kitchen and my mother was looking at me as she was talking about sending me down there. Slowly her voice changed and she gave me an “uh oh” look. All I heard on her end was “Mmhmm” and “I see” but I had a feeling what was going down.
My mother hung up the phone and said, “Well, it looks like something came up and they won’t be around to take you to Disneyworld.”
My eyes started welling up but I wasn’t ready to cry yet. I held it together to ask one last question that I already knew the answer to: “Can’t somebody else take me?”
“No. I’m sorry.”
I cried uncontrollably. I ran up to my room and cried into my pillow until I fell asleep. My parents ended up sending me to England to hang out with my favorite uncle and cousin (both who were unavailable for most of the trip). Except for a few moments, I was miserable the entire time1.
Thanks to an annual pass Cindy got me for Christmas, I finally stepped foot in a Disney theme park, Disneyland, on January 5th. I would have felt like a little kid if there weren’t so many actual kids and babies in strollers2. It was great to finally know what people were talking about when I went to Space Mountain or It’s A Small World3. When I posted on Facebook and Twitter that i was finally going to Disneyland, some people responded about it wasn’t a big deal or that DisneyWorld was better. The point was, unlike 10-year-old Sean who listened with jealously as his classmates talked about their summers in Disney heaven, I could finally participate in the conversation.