Yesterday we took the kids to Disneyland.
It was our first time at the Magic Kingdom: West, but not our first Disney experience. Back in the early months of 2007, when my son was a newbie and my daughter was 3, we hit up Disney World for the first time as a family.
I was (predictably, if you read this blog with any regularity) pessimistic and skeptical. Yeah, I’d heard people talk about Disney Magic and all the hype and … and … whatever. I didn’t buy it. To me, this was going to be yet another overpriced vacation with $70 meals and $30 T-shirts.
I was wrong. Well, I wasn’t wrong about the prices. But I was way off on the experience. It was, truly, magical. All I wanted to do was watch Casey, eyes as wide as quarters, march around the park in her princess dress, captivated by the characters, riveted by the size, mesmerized by the fireworks and the parade and the shows. I can’t properly put into words how beautiful it was, but it was, well, beautiful. There’s a photograph downstairs in my house that features little Casey, face painted, wearing a pink cowboy hat, being held in front of the castle. It’s one of my all-time favorites, because it captures the light of a moment.
That was eight years ago.
Casey is now 11. She has friends. A phone. She reads Bop magazine and seems to care somewhat about boys. She was excited about Disneyland, but not excited in the ways of a 3-year-old. She thought it’d be cool to buy something from one of the shops. She wanted to do Space Mountain. Surely there’d be ice cream involved. But it wasn’t the same. It just wasn’t. Not even close. The parade—so captivating in 2007—was just … meh. She didn’t light up when the characters passed. We accidentally waited on line to pose for a picture with Tinkerbell, and it was … awkward. The woman playing the character was probably, oh, 22. Casey is 11. She’s closer in age to Tink than I am. There was some mumbling, a forced pose, we moved on.
The rides were cool, but often underwhelming. She paid $23 for some Minnie ears that, I’m guessing, will either never be worn again, or might return for Halloween: 2019. In short, it was what it was. A fun day. A good day. But not worth the money.
I’m writing this all sort of straight. But as one with a painfully nostalgic heart, it hurt. I wanted Casey to fawn over the characters just one last time. I wanted the parade to be special; for her to see Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and show me a flicker of wonder. I wanted her to be 3 again, propped up on my shoulders, dazzled by the sights and sounds and smells and tastes.
I wanted to travel back in time. Alas, she wasn’t interested.
You can’t go home again.