I saw The Today Show post birthday wishes to Donald Duck this past weekend and it made me think back to my first trip to Disney World in 1984. I was in first grade and my parents took me and my sisters out of school for a week to go to “the most magical place on Earth.” We trekked across country in our brown station wagon, hauling the pop-up camper behind. We stayed at Fort Wilderness, the campground at Disney, and it was equally as magical as the park itself. The antithesis of the theme park, the campground was quiet and serene, surrounded by tall pine trees and a slower pace. Every morning we would hop on a tram that would transport us to the Magic Kingdom. It was while we were waiting for the tram one day that I lost a tooth spelling “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I”.
I remember walking down Main Street, U.S.A. towards Cinderella Castle, soaking in all the people and rides and sounds…oh the sounds. The constant music piping throughout the park of all the familiar Disney songs. It was all so cheerful and grand and enchanting! I remember riding ALL the rides too. Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, Big Thunder Mountain, and It’s a Small World. It was magical at every turn! And the fireworks over the castle were breathtaking! It was all so surreal, making it difficult to decide what was real and what was fantasy. The whole experience stirred up all of the emotions a seven year old could handle.
One afternoon at the daily parade, there was a special birthday celebration for Donald Duck. He was turning fifty that day and all the characters sang a special song as they danced down Main Street. Donald Duck was at the end, perched high on a float that looked like a giant birthday cake with candles. He was smiling and waving to the crowd. In all the excitement, I found myself choked up. Not because I was happy to see him or excited that it was his birthday. But rather, torn up over the fact that he was old and would die soon. My sweet, little, seven year old self could not fathom life existing far beyond the ancient age of fifty.
Here I am now, a mere nine years away from “deaths door” myself. I expect it’s time to take my kiddo there so he can experience the wonderful world of Disney without having to push his folks around in wheelchairs!