From Walt Disney World, With Thanks

Walt Disney World
The king and queen of Walt Disney World

My parents made the bold and brave decision to take my sister and I to Walt Disney World a few times when I was growing up. These trips are among my favorite memories. Not because of some magical, gooey family bonding experience, but because I still nearly wet my pants laughing at our shenanigans.

For one, my mom has no sense of direction. She will be the first to admit this. When my parents booked our stay at the Polynesian Resort, they probably hadn’t taken into consideration the sprawling property, the various buildings that all looked identical, the winding paths. You can see where this is going…

At less than 10 years old I became my mom’s guide. She wasn’t allowed (by order of all of us) to wander the property alone because she’d get irretrievably lost. Doing laundry alone? No way. Luckily, I inherited my dad’s sense of direction, held her hand, and got us out of a few almost-sticky situations.

Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom
Cinderella’s Castle

Then, there was my obsession with my Disney character autograph book. Did you guys have autograph books? Why were they such a big deal? At any rate, I was determined — fiercely determined — to get mine signed by every single character. And I did. Except for one: Mickey Mouse.

Mickey proved utterly elusive. We spent days on his tail (pun totally intended), but to no avail. I became agitated. I wept. Finally my mom disappeared for a spell. She returned with my autograph book in hand. Scrawled across the page in shaky letters: MICKEY MOUSE.

She had succeeded in getting Mickey’s signature! Or had she? From a young age I possessed a sixth sense for trickery, thanks in part to reading an awful lot of Nancy Drew novels.

It was all too clear: My mom had forged Mickey’s signature. This sparked a BROUHAHA.

It's a Small World
It’s a Small World, after all (still fabulously the same, 30 years later)

We returned to Disney a few times over the years, and there was always more hilarity: snapping photos during a rainstorm wearing those hideous yellow ponchos everyone at the park seems to have bought, eating fried ice cream for the first time, whooping it up at the Hoop-Dee-Doo, screaming our faces off on Space Mountain. So many memories.

Fast forward, er, 30 years and Ayaz and I decided to make our way to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot for a quick jaunt. Epcot seemed tired and rather dated to me, but Disney World brought back all those childhood vacation memories in a flood.

Keeping an eye on Epcot.

I watched the gazillion families sweating it out in crazy lines for rides, saw kids covered in sticky lollipops and ice cream screaming their little lungs out, sunburned toddlers weeping, and parents looking really frazzled while drinking a surprising amount of beer.

And I thought of my parents, and those trips, and our memories, and felt such an overwhelming amount of gratitude that I physically ached just the tiniest bit. I probably didn’t think to say it then, but thank you, thank you, thank you.


  1. Val! We just went up to Disney this past weekend… and we stayed at the Polynesian…. ANDDD we went to the Hoop dee doo review!!! I loved it… so silly but oh so fun! We actually have annual passes…. so we tend to visit quite a bit…! 🙂

  2. Rhea Auerbach says:

    Enjoyed this tremendously. Steve and I are headed to EPCOT for the day on Thurs. Let us know the next time you go…..we’ll meet you for a hug, a pic and a turkey leg. Did you notice if the food and wine festival was happening in Epcot? xoxo

    • Valerie Conners says:

      Rhea! We would LOVE that. I think the food and wine festival is in the fall maybe? Xo

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