So . . . I have decided that one day we will meet up at Disney. Then you will be in the story (not just feel like it)! In the meantime . . . on to the next installment.
“SO THE DRAMA”
With Snow White’s mention of dinner, I realize that it is time for us to rejoin our precious family and journey to Liberty Square for supper. We have reservations at the Liberty Tree Tavern.
DD8 and I meet the other half of our crew at the train station on Main Street, U.S.A.®. All is well except that DD3 has resumed her withdrawn state of irritation.
We arrive at the tavern a little early. The hostess tells us to have a seat in the waiting area until our table becomes available. I sit on a colonial bench, cuddling DD3 who is in desperate need of unconditional love right now. “We get to see Goofy, won’t that be fun,” I suggest gently. She shakes her head in disagreement. “Well, what about Minnie or Chip and Dale? They are here too, and they are going to visit our table when we eat. Do you want to see any of them,” I ask in a soothing voice. She sadly says, “No. I don’t want to see them.” But after some consideration she partially retracts her statement. “Well, I want to see Chip, the chinkmonk.” I agree that Chip is a pleasant “chinkmonk”, and I look forward to seeing him as well.
We are summoned to our table that is tucked back in the corner with a booth-type bench and a couple chairs. It isn’t long before the Disney characters, dressed in colonial garb come into view. “Oh boy,” I say, “I can see them coming.” DD8 and DS6 contort their bodies in order to catch a glimpse while remaining in their chairs. I can see the excitement beginning to build for them. DD3, however, displays no enthusiasm whatsoever. She remains in her booster seat that rests on the stuffed leather bench and has once again become statuesque while fervently ****ing her thumb. “Here we go again,” I think.
The first one to visit our table is Minnie. I am hopeful that DD3 will change her attitude because she responded so well to Minnie earlier in the day. I am sure that DD3 remembers how loving Minnie was at that time, and it seems unlikely that DD3 would completely shun such a great friend.
Minnie is received warmly by DD8 and DS6. They envelope her in affectionate hugs and kisses. But Minnie lays eyes on DD3, who is firmly planted in her booster seat and ****ing her thumb. She extends her arms to DD3, suggesting that she would like a hug, but DD3 fails to even acknowledge Minnie’s existence. Minnie is crushed by this overt rejection, and shamefully buries her perky face within her enormous, mouse hands. DD3 is still unmoved. I suggest that maybe Minnie could kiss DD3 on the cheek since this was so effective in lifting her spirits previously. Minnie nods to express her cooperation. She leans in close to DD3 for the gentle, friendly expression. But while DD3 may have been tricked out of her crankiness this way before, she is no fool to be tricked this way again.
As Minnie plants her plastic, black nose squarely on DD3’s cheek, DD3’s eyes roll into the back of her head. In a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination for “Best Actress in a Dramatic Role”, DD3 falls out of her booster seat and onto the bench like a grand tree falls to the ground as the lumberjack yells, “Timber!” She then tumbles off of the bench and lands with a great thud underneath our table.
Minnie is horrified to find that she has delivered the kiss of death to my unfortunate child and covers her blushing cheeks with her huge, white-gloved hands. I assure her that she is not responsible for any trauma DD3 has suffered, and release her to greet children who are more deserving of her cheerful presence.
Once DD3 is recovered from the table underworld, she is sternly seated next to me on the bench. I am determined that we will have no more dramatic performances throughout the rest of our meal.
Goofy is now making his way towards our table. “DD3,” I enthusiastically remark, “Goofy is coming next. Look at how silly he is. This will be the only time that we get to meet him. Don’t you think you want to hug him and let Mommy take your picture?” She huffs in annoyance at my suggestion. “No,” she says firmly, “I only want Chip.”
With her position firmly established, DD3 passes up her chance to be silly with the funniest Disney character. Goofy seems slightly disappointed by DD3’s stubborn rejection of him, but he quickly recovers as he moves to the next table.
Dale is not far behind Goofy. He is very animated and friendly. DD8 and DS6 happily receive him while DH films and I snap photos. DD3 is obstinate though. She will not even glance at Dale. He tries to approach her, but she growls a little bit as a warning to him. I inform Dale that he doesn’t need to bother with DD3 because she is anti-social at the moment. He wisely takes my counsel and backs away.
Finally Chip arrives. DD3 immediately snaps out of the doom and gloom that she has been plagued by since our arrival in the tavern. We are all stunned by the instantaneous transformation that Chip has brought upon our cranky girl, but the change is a welcome one. DD3 leaps out of the booth so that she can bury her face in Chip’s soft fur. He welcomes her with open arms and nuzzles the top of her head. Her smile is so grand; she looks as if she has just entered paradise.
After a few more high-fives and games of pat-a-cake, Chip gestures that DD3 should return to her meal that has now arrived. She obediently climbs back into her seat and announces to us, “That was great. Now I am ready to see the others.”
Loving every installment! DD3 is cracking me up, she seems to have quite the personality! And I can't help myself from swelling with pride for you with DD8's signs of being Disney-wise beyond her years! Looking forward to the next update, I find myself checking back every half hour or so!
While leaving the tavern, DD8 states that she wants to go to The Haunted Mansion one more time, and she wants to ride in a doom buggy by herself just to prove how fearless she is. I am doubtful about this plan. DD8 may have shown some courage during our last trip through the spooky home, but she was accompanied by her protective father. I am not certain that she can handle the morbid edifice on her own.HAUNTING THE MANSION
As I express my disapproval, DD8 insists that she is up to the task. I reconsider her request since it seems of utmost importance to her. I definitely want DD8 to move in the direction of fearlessness and empowerment. Being my most timid child, she frequently misses out on challenging but fun activities and dampens the exciting mood when she is forced to participate. Giving her opportunities to know the pride of bravery may help her to overcome her cowardly tendencies, making this questionable challenge worthwhile.
However, as I ponder DD8’s request, I envision going through the mansion and my fearless child discovering that she has misjudged herself. It is feasible to assume that about the time we hit the creepy hallway where people plead for help and doorknobs turn frantically as if someone is trying to escape the locked rooms, she will second-guess her self-estimation. I imagine her jumping from her doom buggy in an attempt to either find her parents or a way out of the cultish building. I see the whole ride being stopped as operators search for my traumatized ghostbuster amongst the wedding artifacts in the attic, which is where she attempts to find a hiding place from the murderous bride who has happily decapitated all five of her grooms. Do I really want to risk living this scenario?
Or--I continue to hypothesize--what if the ride is stopped in the graveyard due to technical difficulties? Could she truly withstand being held captive in the burial grounds of countless spirits, some of who spontaneously jump out from behind gravestones? She might emerge from such a horrific experience with all types of neurotic ticks and twitches, betraying the fact that she has been irreversibly, emotionally damaged as a result of her NDM’s poor judgment. At the very least, the trauma could squelch all hope of DD8 ever attempting any show of bravery ever again. I can’t help but feel that maybe this proposed situation is not a good starting block for DD8 to test her fear factors.
DS6 is already shaking in his Lightening McQueen sneakers at the thought of having to endure the mansion one more time. He shows no interest in taking another step in its direction, except for the fact that his big sister (who he usually seeks approval from) is desperate to have another look at it. So if my one child, who usually does not shrink from the chance to showcase his strong and daring nature, is intimidated by this attraction, how could my fearful other possibly come through this emotionally intact?
Suddenly, I am inspired with an idea that may please all parties invested in this controversy. “DD8,” I suggest, “Why don’t you and DS6 go together in a doom buggy? You wouldn’t have Mommy or Daddy. And you could help protect DS6, who is a little frightened. That is very brave!” In my mind, this proposition could work. On most days, DS6 adores DD8 and has been known to seek her company. This companionship helps him feel a like a “very big kid”, so I predict he will be less reluctant to ride if he has the chance to be with DD8 exclusively. Also, it is reasonable to expect DD8 to get caught up in her protective duties; therefore, not focusing so much on the actual, ethereal surroundings.
“No,” she cries, “I want to go by myself. I don’t want anyone else to ride with me.” “Hmmm,” I say as I mentally design some type of middle ground. Then, after a brief consultation with DH, I say, “DS6, do you think you can be brave enough to ride with DD8 in a doom buggy?” DS6 positively responds to my proposition. “Yes,” he says confidently. I emphasize, “She will be the only one in the cart with you. Will it be too scary for you?” “No,” he remarks with a little less certainty. “DD8,” I say firmly, “We will go in The Haunted Mansion again, but you must ride with DS6. If you get through the ride one time with him and you are not afraid by the end of it, then we will go another time and let you ride by yourself.”
DD8 finds this to be an acceptable transition into a courageous, conquering girl. DS6 shudders at the thought of having to go through the mansion two more times, but he holds his tongue in order to share the “big kid” privilege of riding alone with DD8. I attempt to prepare them both by giving reminders that the rest of us will be in the doom buggy right next to theirs and that they can close their eyes at any time to block out scary images as well as lie down on the seat to hide. DD8 does not seem intimidated by the challenge she currently faces, so I hand her some responsibility by instructing her to hug DS6 and allow him to hide his eyes and put his head in her lap if he becomes frightened. She agrees to these motherly duties and takes DS6 by the hand as we approach the daunting gates of the mansion.
I hardly enjoy or appreciate the ride this time through. My mind cannot rest as I mentally prepare myself to respond at a moment’s notice to any crisis that arises. The thoughts absolutely terrify me because while I am able to remain relatively calm within my doom buggy, I am certain I will lose control over important bodily functions if I have to leave it. Nevertheless, I tell myself to be ready to jump from my moving vehicle to retrieve any frightened children that escape or be ready to make a flying leap between the two vehicles if I hear uncontrollable hysterics taking place.
I sit on pins and needles, straining my ears for the slightest sound of unhappiness from the buggy in front of ours. But I hear nothing. Good! They must be Ok. Then it occurs to me that their silence may be an indication of just the opposite. What if they are paralyzed with fear and hunkering down on the floor of their cart while they whimper like little puppies? I start to panic. It seems like an eternity before we make it to the ballroom scene where our carts turn to position us alongside our darlings rather than in back of them. I illegally lean my body outside of my cart to provide an angle for viewing the inside of my children’s vehicle. It is not enough. I cannot see anything.
What if they have already escaped and are in danger? I recall a report from many years back of one teen dying in The Haunted Mansion when he left his vehicle and caused an accident. I voice my concern to DH who assures me that our beautiful children are still within their earthly bodies and buggy of doom. He is certain they have not passed on to the spirit realm, but I am not convinced. There is only one thing left to do. In the middle of the ride I yell out at a volume that would wake any dead that were not already up, “DD8! DS6!” There is no answer. My panic is heightened. With more intensity I yell, “DD8!! DS6!!” “Yes,” they say and poke their little heads from the confinement of the doom buggy. “Is everything alright? Are you scared,” I desperately implore. They cheerfully respond, “We’re fine.” I sheepishly respond, “Ok. I just wanted to check.” With that the two little heads disappear within the blackness of their doom buggy, and I lean back a little embarrassed by my overreaction.
I manage to keep my imagination from getting the best of me throughout the rest of the ride, and we emerge from the dark rooms no worse off than when we entered. Once we are outside DD8 delivers her report of the exhibit without the slightest sign of fearfulness. I am stunned by not only her lack of fright but also her pure enthusiasm for this ride. She has certainly earned the privilege of occupying her own doom buggy.
We exit the mansion just to enter the queque area again. DS6 is consoled by the knowledge that DH will solely guard him throughout the entire attraction. Also, he will have the company of the rest of the family in his doom buggy. This seems to be enough to make him feel that one more time through the dreadful mansion is endurable.
As we repeat the attraction, I find myself replaying all the imaginary, horrific scenarios in my mind. It is very hard to relax, but I somehow contain my impulses to call out to DD8 for a safety check-up. As I fight my irrational compulsions, I realize that this experiment has turned out to be more of a test of my own courage than DD8’s. And I am failing!
At the end of the mansion’s tour, DD8 leaves smiling from ear to ear. Her newfound pride is evident. I congratulate her as I try to recover from the nerve-wracking experience and feel exhausted by the pent-up anxiety I have harbored through two trips of this spooky place. In my mind, I consider that there must be easier ways to help a little one transition from childhood into a brave, new world. If there isn’t—if all events that promote the inevitable state of independence are as anxiety-ridden as this one--it is probable that I should begin a search for a good therapist who can prescribe strong drugs.
Feeling the need to avert having nightmares, I suggest that we all pick a more cheerful ride in Fantasyland® to follow my harrowing time in The Haunted Mansion. DH proposes that whatever it is, it should be the last ride of the day. He is really feeling drained by all of our activities and sees a need for adequate rest to prepare for our trip back home tomorrow. The children don’t protest since they seem very tired as well.A HAPPY ENDING
As a NDM, I am not accustomed to leaving the park before it closes. However, I remember the epiphany I nearly had earlier in the day. Perhaps the time has finally come to acknowledge that staying in the park solely for the sake of neurosis is not in the best interest of the family. Am I able to do this? I hesitate for a brief moment as I try to conjure a reason to delay our exit, but I am unable to do so. We have covered every square inch of the Magic Kingdom® and even repeated some of it. Everything we could have wished for in a trip has come to pass. To insist that there is more to desire would be beyond neurotic—it would be crazy.
The simple truth is that it is time to retract (or at least amend) the final tenet of The Sacred Seven that states: Thou shalt not exit the park until forced. As impossible as it previously seemed, I now understand that there are instances when an early departure may be preferred. And now that I have the comfort of knowing my family will return every year, I feel I can relinquish some of my rituals and trust that my family’s Disney heritage will still be passed on effectively.
Without reluctance, I agree to DH’s suggested plan and prepare for our last ride of the trip. The entire family agrees that Cinderella’s Golden Carousel is the ideal attraction to end our wonderful day. There is little wait for it. It is possibly the most romantic and cheerful exhibit in all of the Magic Kingdom®, and everyone can ride it. So when we are admitted, we hurriedly select our steeds and begin our fanciful rotations around the musical core. As the wind blows my sweat-plastered and knotted hair, I hear the fantastic giggles of my small equestrians. I relish every second and remember that it is unforgettable moments like these that make Walt Disney World® a beautiful place.
When our turn around the carousel is over and we carefully dismount, it is time to go. We all hold hands and move toward the exit on Main Street, U.S.A.® with a deep sense of contentment and peace.REFRAMING THE BIG PICTURE
It is a bittersweet and almost surreal feeling to walk this path voluntarily. I am so accustomed to being pushed down it by a dense, packed-sardine-style crowd that is making its mass exodus. In a way, I miss the sense of solidarity that hangs heavy over a large group that has shared the same struggle of surviving a long day and is now being removed due to the arbitrary practice of closing the park by a particular hour. It seems odd to pass the brightly lit shops and heavenly smells on the way out without crying babies all around and the balloons of a person, who stands directly in front of me, smacking me in the face. And it is definitely foreign to have enough open space around me as I walk so that I can see the ground and avoid awkwardly stepping on a trolley track and twisting my ankle.
Yet at the same time, I have a new sense of pride as I leave on my own accord. It is unexpected, but there is a great amount of dignity in admitting that your time in the park has come to an end before cast members begin rejecting your entry in the lines of their closed attractions. And there is certainly less stress in catching your mode of transportation since hour-long waits have not yet formed in the boat docks, bus stops, and tram and monorail depots.
I feel my eyes are opened a little more with every step toward our exit. Apparently, Disney can be enjoyed in more ways than The Sacred Seven indicate. A “perfect” Disney vacation takes a different shape for different families in different stages, and room needs to be left for these different “walks of life” as well as the evolution of one’s own “walk in life”. For example, it has become apparent that even in this single vacation, our family’s membership in the Disney Vacation Club has already begun to subtly change the way that we operate. It is relieving to understand that it is Ok to allow these changes to take place . . . even embrace them.
I hold tightly to the new treasure of these truths as we board the red flag-flying boat that takes us back to The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. We are on our way back to relax a little in the comfort of our villa before turning in for a full night’s rest. The extra hours of sleep will be needed for the emotionally difficult day that looms before us, the day of departure from our cherished Walt Disney World®.
With a great jolt, I sit up straight in bed. As I gasp for breath, I look at the clock. It is 4:30 am. I begin to panic and let out a great whine, “Oh no! I can’t believe it!” DH startles at my actions, “What?! What is it?” “I can’t believe it,” I say nearly in tears, “I missed it.” DH continues to probe, “What did you miss?” I wail, “The Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge Tour! I just can’t believe it! It was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing. I was planning on doing it the morning my mom came, but I forgot until just this moment. Now I have lost my chance since we are leaving today. And we won’t be back at this resort for years because we will stay at all the other Disney Vacation Club resorts before we return to this one.”DAY 8
WONDERING ABOUT THE WILDERNESS LODGE
I flop down on my extremely puffy pillow, pouting like a little girl who was just denied tea and cake at her unbirthday party. The tour had looked so intriguing when I read about it in the Disney forums. It promised to deliver a unique history of all the lodge particulars. This was my chance to find out the inspirational stories behind this magnificent building, and it slipped through my fingers almost unnoticed. Life is so unfair sometimes. How could this have happened?
“Well, when is the tour,” DH continues with his investigation. I moan with all the doom and gloom I can muster, “It is at 9:00am Wedenesday through Friday. Wednesday was the day I was supposed to go. Thursday we went to the Magic Kingdom®. And today, we will be too busy getting packed up and checking out. I can’t believe it! How could I have forgotten it? Did we sleep in that morning?” DH confirms that we did sleep in on Wednesday morning, which is the reason the tour must have slipped my mind. I moan again as I realize that letting my NDM guard down and relaxing on my vacation has deprived me of one of the primary events I had been hoping to attend. In the future I will have to be more careful about releasing my NDM ways to indulge in this new notion of “relaxing” on vacation. There certainly is no point in “relaxing” if you miss all the fun.
I huff and puff a bit, and then I bury my head in my abundant pillow to muffle the scream of frustration that I am compelled to let out. I know that I must let this go, but how can our “perfect” vacation recover from this gross oversight?
Rubbing my back in sympathy, DH says, “Well, why don’t you go this morning? If you get up a little early to help with packing the suitcases, I will feed the kids and clean and pack the kitchen.” My heart takes an unexpected leap. What a romantic gesture! “Really? Do you mean that,” I ask with great expectation. “Sure,” he states, “We’ve eaten most of the food we brought, so packing up the kitchen won’t be as difficult as it was from home. How long does the tour last?” I express uncertainty but relay that I doubt it will be more than an hour. “Well, then you will still be back an hour before we have to leave. That should be enough time to make sure we’ve got everything taken care of before they pick up our bags,” he lovingly rationalizes.
A grand smile overtakes my face. DH’s ability to understand the uncommon needs of a NDM certainly takes me by surprise. What an incredible show of sensitivity on his part! He is absolved of any Disney sins that he has previously committed, and he is granted the status of Disney saint for the rest of the day. I give him a tender kiss on his precious cheek and snuggle back into the comfort of my bed for another hour and a half.
When the clock reads 6:00 am, I get out of bed and start to prepare for the day. After making myself presentable, I lay clothes out for all my sleepy heads and pack up their suitcases. I then gather all of the souvenirs we have accumulated and make sure they are carefully packaged as well. Slowly a mountain of suitcases, boxes, and bags grows near the entrance of our villa.
Once everyone awakens, I get to work on a more thorough routine of departure preparation. Children dressed and groomed? Check! Beds stripped? Check! Dirty towels and linens put in laundry basket? Check! Extra blankets folded? Check! Kids toys and special stuffed animals located, gathered and ready for transportation? Check!
It isn’t long before the nine o’-clock hour rolls around. I hurry out the door and rush to the lobby. I don’t want to risk being left behind on the tour because NDMs simply love Disney history. We feed on it like plants absorbing water from the soil. It is a form of sustenance for us. The tales about the people and events that helped form the present Disney come together to form a compelling story of drama, suspense, comedy, tragedy, action and romance. It is a feast for the NDM mind, and I am hungry!
I arrive in the lobby, but fail to see a group. Have I missed the tour in spite of my great effort to make it on time? I inquire at the Concierge Desk. They inform me that the group is standing by the huge supporting pillar right behind me. Odd! I certainly had not seen a group when I arrived three seconds ago. I turn to take a second look, but I still don’t see a group. I question at the Concierge Desk once again. They tell me more specifically to fix my gaze upon a middle-aged couple casually standing near the pillar. I remark, “Just them?” They nod, so I make my way over to the designated tour spot.
I am a little surprised by the tiny number of attendants. Apparently, this is not a widely popular tour. I reason that not everyone can be expected to show such a passionate hunger for Disney history. This level of interest is almost always reserved for the more devout Disney fans such as the unique breed of NDMs.
Park Ranger Stan, an elderly man who is our tour guide, approaches our group with his protégé. He introduces his trainee and himself with an adorable smile that makes me wish I could pinch his cheek. He gives a brief explanation of his own long-standing history of working for Walt Disney World®, and I am completely taken in. I love hearing about how Disney has affected the lives of others and how other lives have affected Disney, and Park Ranger Stan shares his memories with great affection. This tour is off to a great start.
But then Park Ranger Stan begins a long monologue about the materials that compose the lodge. We stand in this single spot for about fifteen minutes, listening to in-depth descriptions about types of wood, concrete and stone as Park Ranger Stan points his red, power-point pen at various features in the lobby.
While I have a healthy appreciation for construction materials, the amount of concrete needed to form the walkways is not exactly what I came to hear about. I tell myself to be patient. Surely, once we start moving Park Ranger Stan will switch from these cold-hard construction statistics to inspiring tales that took place within different areas of this beautiful and magical setting. I can tell by his endearing nature that this man is connected to many lives here, and I am certain he has more stories to tell than time will allow.
Eventually the middle-aged woman in our group asks if we will be moving from the spot we have been standing in for about twenty minutes. Park Ranger Stan explains that the tour begins, remains and ends in this single spot. He states that his power-point pen makes moving unnecessary since we can visually follow the red dot around the room.
I am confused. It seems like the historic tales we will soon hear would be more powerful if we travel to the places in which they occurred. But I tell myself not to be so demanding. The important part is not standing in various locations. The important part is simply learning the legacies.
But Park Ranger Stan just continues to talk about square footage and sand bags. We are occasionally blessed with a passing remark about Native Americans visiting the construction site to approve Disney’s efforts of authenticity, but—in general—the topic remains strictly architectural with little said about humanity. I feel myself get a bit antsy.
After another ten minutes, Park Ranger Stan asks with finality, “Does anyone have questions?” I am left a little alarmed that his tone indicates we are at the end of this tour, and I have yet to hear one bonafide, historical tale about a specific event, person or token of humanity other than our dear park ranger’s introductory resume.
I quickly raise my hand. “Could you tell us about any interesting people or events that are in the lodge’s history,” I sweetly implore. “Hmmm. Could you give me an example of what you are looking for,” he probes. I respond, “Well, things like . . . have any famous people stayed here? What happened when they did? Was the building packed with onlookers? Has anyone died here? Has anyone been born here? Have any horrific curses been cast on this place? What about blessings? Were there any terrific obstacles that needed to be overcome and ultimately ended up in the triumphant completion of the building? Oh! I know! Are there any Wilderness spirits that haunt the lodge on occasion? Or are there any legendary cast members who have greatly contributed in some way to the betterment of this place?”
Park Ranger Stan looks a little stunned by my sudden, verbal explosion. “Well, I guess I don’t rightly know of anything like that off the top of my head,” he admits. “What about romantic tales? Do you have any specific memories about weddings that have taken place here,” I plead. He shakes his head and says, “Not exactly. I can tell you, though, that weddings in the lodge take place on that upper balcony. Most of the bride’s here are Asian. Apparently, it is less expensive for an Asian bride to have a grand affair here in Walt Disney World® than it is to have a smaller affair in their own country.” I consider this tid-bit more interesting than the other stuff he has told us so far, but when I inquire about more specifics, he has none to give.
In an attempt to jump start his memory, I feed him the beginnings of a story that I have already heard. I rationalize that though I know the basics of this tale, he may be able to fill in details with a more personal touch. At this point, I am desperate to hear a story even if I already know it. “Can you tell us the story of the man who worked here and began the tradition of rubbing Humphrey’s nose,” I ask. “I’d be happy to do that if I knew the story,” he replies. I suggest, “Oh, I am sure you know this. There was a man who used to work here. You must have known him. He would rub Humphrey’s nose. But he is now dead. Does that sound familiar?” “No,” he says with a terrific smile, “but I am really interested to hear about it. Why don’t you tell the group about it?”
I am a little embarrassed to be suddenly thrust into the role of tour guide, but this tour is begging for stories that aren’t about brick and mortar. I feel obliged to share what I know with the other two people who made the effort to come to this tour (possibly with misaligned expectations as I did). “Well, I am a member on the Disboards, which is an online community. If you have a question about Disney, these people will have the answer for you within 5 minutes flat. Anyway, on that board, this story is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge 101. There was a cast member, someone they called ‘A Wilderness Vet,’ and he really loved his job here. He apparently started the tradition of rubbing Humphrey’s nose. Humphrey is the bear on the bottom of the totem pole near the mercantile shop. Park Ranger Stan, do you mind shining your power-point dot on Humphrey for us,” I request. Park Ranger Stan is happy to assist my presentation and directs our attention to Humphrey with his pen. I continue, “Well, he told everyone that when they visited Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, if they would rub Humphrey’s nose at the start of their vacation, it would make their magical vacation dreams come true. He has died since then, but people still seek out Humphrey every time they visit to carry on this tradition. My kids and I did this when we first arrived earlier this week, and it was a lot of fun for us. As you can see, the paint on Humphrey’s nose has been worn off. This is because of all of the rubbing, so this cast member’s legacy lives on at the nose of this adorable bear.”
My story is met with unexpressive nods from the inattentive couple. Apparently, brick and mortar statistics actually were all they came to hear about. But Park Ranger Stan looks as if he could not be more pleased with my tale. He remarks, “That was wonderful! Maybe you should learn to give the tour. I never realized that Humphrey’s paint had been rubbed off, but you are right. Isn’t that amazing!”
Due to Park Ranger Stan’s reaction, I feel proud of my contribution. Maybe the mystical cast member’s legend will expand if Park Ranger Stan decides to add the tale to his tour.
Suddenly, Park Ranger Stan’s face brightens. “I have a story for you that I think you will like,” he offers, “But we will have to go to the floor where the weddings take place. Does everyone have enough time to do this? Our tour is actually over now, so you may leave if you need to.” Everyone agrees to stay, however, and he leads us to the higher level.
Once we are there, he has us look over the railing for a bird’s eye view of the lobby floor. In a secretive tone he relays that he doesn’t always give this information out because some consider it to be offensive to their religion or to their lack of religion. With that disclaimer, I am hooked. I know this is going to be good.
He then explains that the Native American tale of Creation is told in the layout of the wood planks on the floor. So with his pointer pen in hand, Park Ranger Stan begins the elaborate Creation story from the perspective of Native Americans. With each story detail he traces the floor with his floating red dot to illustrate the hidden symbolism. Park Ranger Stan becomes more engrossed in the legend with each word, and I can see his enthusiasm and pride in the lodge growing as his story progresses. He continues until the end and delivers an excellent and informative report that certainly speaks of the lodge’s architectural history as well as the theology that is the backdrop for it. And by the time he finishes this climatic presentation, I am full to the brim with satisfaction. This is the type of thing that I had hoped to learn about. It was long in coming, but Park Ranger Stan did not let me down.
As we conclude our time together, Park Ranger Stan asks again, “Does anyone have more questions?” I raise my hand again. He looks at me quizzically, waiting for me to respond. I carefully inquire, “Are you able to show us any of the Hidden Mickeys of the lodge?” Park Ranger Stan flashes me his winning smile but says, “You have stumped me again.” Rats! “Well,” I think to myself, “no one could blame me for trying.”
I only have one more installment to post and then my report will be done. :cry: If you have enjoyed it, I hope you will stay in touch with me as I take on my new blogging endeavor: http://thedisneydrivenlife.com/ . I just got RSS feeds so that should make it easy to stay up-to-date with it. I intend to have this thing be very entertaining, fun and even interactive.
Ya'll have been loads of fun, I don't want to lose touch. So if I don't bump into you on the boards here, I'm always one that loves e-mails. Or find me on facebook. I'm J.L. Knopp. The last installment should be up today or tomorrow. ;)
It has been a wonderful report and I will sorely miss reading it! I'll definately be checking out your blog often! See you on the boards or facebook!
I return to my villa feeling thankful for my encounter with Park Ranger Stan. But as I open the door and see the condition of our room, I am brought back to the reality that my dreamy week is coming to a close.PASSING THE TORCH
DH has done a good job feeding the kids and packing up the kitchen. I see that there is little left to be done, and I am grateful that I don’t have to spend my last moments here in a frenzy as I try to meet our check-out deadline.
A phone call is made to bell services, and shortly thereafter some cheerful park rangers arrive with a shiny cart to transport our luggage to the minivan. They look a lot happier than our family does. I personally am a little deflated as I watch our belongings be removed from our magical villa. It marks the definite end of our wilderness occupation. To watch the progression of our eviction is almost more than I can take.
The villa has been more than a temporary room for us. It truly has come to feel like our “home away from home” even though we have only been here a few days. I attribute this to the fact that these few days have been packed with more unforgettable memories than we have possibly made in the last six months. Every day has been “family day”. Every day has been an adventure. We have taken an incredible journey together while we were here, and we have been rewarded at every turn.
I send the kids on with DH to follow our luggage and get strapped into the van for our trip. After they exit, I have one final look through the villa. I always do this to look for any items that were accidentally overlooked in our packing. This time, though, I also do it to try to fix the memory of this precious place firmly in my mind. Once I have glanced over each room for the last time, I know that I can’t delay any more. It is time to go, so I walk out of the entrance to our villa and reluctantly shut the door behind me.
As I rejoin my family under the grand porte-cochere where the van is temporarily parked and being loaded, I find my children already affixed to their designated, travel spots. I peer into the van from the open sliding panel to assess the situation. DD3 is fervently ****ing her thumb again to ease the stress of this traumatic departure. DS6 is clutching his favorite stuffed animal for emotional support, and DD8 is staring at the entrance to the grand lobby we entered for the first time only six days ago.
“DD8,” I ask, “What are you thinking about?” My voice pulls her from her deep thoughts, and she looks at me with sorrowful eyes. “Mom,” she cries as big teardrops run down her cheeks, “I just can’t bear it! Why do we have to leave? This place is so beautiful. It is so wonderful! We have had such a good time. I can’t stand it that we are leaving! I wish we could always live here.” My heart aches for her because I am all too familiar with this sentiment. However, in the midst of her sobbing I see something incredibly beautiful. I see that the seeds of Disney passion that I have been so diligent to sow over the span of her life have come to bloom. I begin to shed tears, too, as I acknowledge that my life’s purpose as a NDM is coming to pass.
The car is finally loaded. DH thanks the park rangers that helped us with this arduous task and tips them generously. I climb into the passenger seat. DH takes to the driver’s side, and we both slam our doors in a way that only emphasizes the closure of our fantastic vacation.
As we pull out of the lodge parking lot, I ponder all the developments that took place during this short week. As a whole unit and as individuals, our family experienced incredible moments that brought about change and impacted us. DH is the first to come to my mind. He made extraordinary leaps in his personal Disney journey. There were moments when he displayed enthusiasm for Disney that I once thought were beyond his scope. I note that this is a true testament to the influence of a NDM and pixie dust power.
I consider that this same power was also exhibited in DD3. Being immersed in authentic Magic Kingdom® culture for the first time, this trip was the beginning of a fanatical Disney process that should continue throughout her years. Significant investments were—undoubtedly--made in her little life this week, and I fully expect to see great returns on that investment as I continue to nurture her fledgling obsession.
My meditative thoughts then turn to DS6. This past trip he made significant strides of his own. Although this was not his first time in Walt Disney World®, the addition of years to his life seemed to help him put all of his Disney knowledge into it’s proper context this time. It was a treasure to see him grasp Disney lore as well as participate in Disney events and make them his own! I cannot deny that these are critical steps that will one day lead him to a love of Disney that is independent of me but at the same time will serve as a strong reference to his identity as the son of a NDM.
Neither can I overlook the blatant progress in DD8’s life during the past week. It is obvious to me that being at Walt Disney World® somehow motivated her to leave behind a few cowardly inclinations and step into a braver temperment. But most importantly, I clearly see that her neurotic Disney personhood has reached maturation. She is the evidence that all my work as a NDM has not been in vain. The torch has been passed. A rich heritage of Disney neuroticism has effectively been transferred to the next generation.
These have all been amazing developments for our family. But in my internal analysis of this trip, I suppose the most dynamic transition of the week has been my own. Somehow within the course of our week in Walt Disney World® I have come to understand the true purpose of The Sacred Seven. It is obvious now that they are meant to function as guidelines rather than commandments. Their purpose is to ultimately position Disney in such a way that it enhances family relationships not to enslave a family so that it enhances Disney. This revelation has subtly become apparent and abruptly blind-sided me all at the same time. I am curious to see how I accommodate this new idea as our family prepares for our return to Walt Disney World® in a whole new chapter of our neurotic Disney story.
I consider that in the next year, there is so much to look forward to in the growth of our NDM family. The possibilities fill my mind, and I feel the excitement rise up within me. Somehow these notions make our departure a little less painful. “Good-bye, Disney,” I yell as I lean out my window and wave at the world around me. Then with the flair of a true mouseketeer I add, “See you real soon!”
.....wow. I think you fully captured the feeling felt by every true disney lover whilst leaving in that last installment. Amazing job!