As a child, did your parents ever come to you and explain that your family would be moving away from your home? If so, do you remember how it felt? Did you accept it well? Were you glad, sad or even slightly mad about it? Perhaps the phrase less than enthusiastic best describes what you felt? Maybe you were curious about how different things would be when everything changed? I know I felt and wondered all of those things and more when my parents gave me the news that we would be moving to a new house. I vividly recall that I was not too keen on the whole idea at first. After all, it was my home I would be leaving behind. I had been so happy there. It was the place where all sorts of memories had been made and wonderful traditions were kept. All of that was over, or so I thought. Before I knew it, all my useful things and special treasures had been packed. Like it or not, moving day arrived, and it was time for us to go.
Tears filled my eyes as the car pulled away. There was no turning back, but I recall looking back until I could no longer see home. I remember feeling at once sad and happy as I thought about all the good times I had there. I knew the smell of our house. I could walk its many rooms and hallways blindfolded. There were secret places I was certain only I knew about. I was familiar with every square inch of the yard where I had played so many times. I knew then, as I know now, I would never again experience that home in the same way. I will always feel as though I left behind more than a physical structure. A piece of my heart remains within those walls. Though it still stands today, it has been completely updated. Even so, that place will forever exist in my memory as it was when I called it home.
I am, however, happy to report that the new house eventually grew on me. My family and I have made great memories there, kept some of the old traditions, and created several new ones—none of which can or could ever replace those linked to the first place I continue to call home.
Fast forward more than a few years to October of 2013; when, as I walked around the central waterfall of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, I found myself experiencing those leaving home feelings once more. You see, throughout my stay there that year, several cast members had alluded to changes that were coming to the resort, and I felt just as I had when I left my home for the last time so long ago.
My family visited the Polynesian Resort for the first time over two decades ago. On subsequent trips, as we would ride down Seven Seas Drive, my dad would pull into the parking lot, and I would hear my mom say, “We’re home.” As we would walk up the entrance path, the double sliding doors would open, and we would be overwhelmed by that oh-so-familiar smell, known to so many as “the Poly Lobby”. The tranquil sounds of the waterfall and even the screeches of the two live macaws welcomed us to the place we had longed to be since our last visit. We would walk the halls, stores and open spaces of the GCH with familiar confidence while greeting all our “cousins” with an “Aloha!” and a shaka. Each vacation we would spend time in the places we believed to be our little secret — the quiet pool at night, the perfect spot on the beach for fireworks, our room in Rarotonga just a step away from the GCH, a shady little table outside Capt. Cook’s. But most importantly, we had our traditions. Photos in front of the GCH waterfall, afternoons spent earning our money back at ‘Ohana, pockets full of change from our parents for Moana Mickey’s Arcade, resort day when we would spend the better part of a day at the pool, and last day breakfast at Coral Isle Café (now Kona Café). With its smells, sounds, secrets, traditions and memories the Polynesian Resort was home to us if even only for a vacation stay.
On every one of our trips, there would be things that had changed such as Tangaroa Terrace closed, News From Civilization and the apparel shops closed, the longhouses were renamed, Coral Isle Cafe reopened as Kona Cafe, Moana Mickey’s moved to the GCH, rooms were renovated and renovated again, the main pool closed and reopened as the Nanea Volcano Pool, the rope bridge and winding creek were added, Wyland Gallery opened, the BouTiki opened, Capt. Cook’s expanded, the Sushi Bar appeared, and much more. Some of these changes were gradual and a few were a little more jarring, but none ever gave me that I’m moving away from home feeling. It was more like the house was just being renovated.
What was different on that last day in 2013? As I stood next to my husband, tears filled my eyes. He and I had spent our honeymoon and four subsequent trips at the Polynesian. We had continued the old traditions and added new ones, too. Now, we would never again take first and last day photos in front of the GCH waterfall. We would never take photos there with our future child or children. We would not be able to buy a painting at Wyland Gallery on our 10th anniversary. The view would not be the same as we lounge in the zero-entry end of the pool looking out toward Cinderella Castle. And, the same sign would not welcome us home as we pulled our car onto 1600 Seven Seas Drive. To make it even harder, my family was not there to say, “Goodbye.” I would never again experience all of those things with them. On our next visit we would not be returning home, we would be moving to a new house.
A new house can be exciting. There are new memories to be made, new traditions to start, secret places to find. But, nothing can ever compare to the place you called, “Home.” I am excited to see Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort complete with Trader Sam’s, Pineapple Lanai, the Bora Bora Bungalows, the children’s water area, and so much more. I know we will make new memories and start new traditions. While they will be wonderful, they will never replace the memories that will forever be associated with home—Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
What location in WDW is “home” to you? Have you experienced these same emotions after a WDW refurbishment or update? Please share your memories in the comment section.
Kendall is a editor and contributing writer for WDW Radio. She began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7) Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)