Remember that scene at the end of Platoon where Charlie Sheen and his company just completed their tour of duty? As they walk in exhausted slow motion toward the awaiting chopper ride home, the jaded and broken soldiers exchange priceless glances with the young members of the fresh-faced replacement platoon just arriving in Vietnam. No words are spoken, yet the squinting messages spoke volumes from the disillusioned veterans to the unsullied virgins: You have no idea what’s in store for you.
This week, I exchanged one of those defeated departure glances with a starry-eyed newly arriving dad and his young family in Disney World.
Yes, we vacationed in Central Florida. During the Fourth of July week. With the peak of the summer crowds. At Walt Disney World. How original, I know. But after getting married, moving to the suburbs and having three children, a Disney World vacation becomes almost expected. What wasn’t expected? Hearing the following comments from me and my family during our 144 hours at The Happiest Place on Earth.
- “That’s a really good looking Woody!”
- “Don’t point that pirate musket over the table at your sisters! You’ll spill Mommy’s and Daddy’s drinks!”
- “What’s that ‘Trex’ restaurant about?”
* “Um, that would be ‘T-Rex’ Kelly, and I’m pretty sure it features dinosaurs.”
- “It’s sooooo hot! I’m sooooo thirsty! My feet are sooooo sore!” (The kids did a lot of complaining too.)
- After consoling my 11-year-old daughter who lost the contents of her stomach while strolling Disney’s Main Street: “Wow! Plastic Disney shopping bags are amazingly leak proof!”
- “In my next life I want to come back as an 18-year-old boy from Rio travelling with these 95 percent female tour groups from Brazil. Easy picking!” (OK, so that was a thought bubble . . . not exactly spoken.)
- “Kids, for the love of God! It’s 900 degrees in the shade, so please stop touching my hands, my arms, my stomach, my neck . . .”
* After a frantic 60-second search for a temporarily lost eight-year-old son: “Don’t you ever let go of my hand again!”
- “Can’t we just lock the kids in the room, and go spend some Disney dollars down at the bar?”
* “Sure Kelly. And we can watch one of those 48 Hours episodes six months from now to see how it all turns out.”
Disney was chaotic, crazy and costly. But it also was at times a wonderful backdrop to a collection of memorable moments I hope my kids will cherish forever. Like circling the nighttime air on the Dumbo elephants as fireworks exploded over Fantasyland. Like hearing my son credited during a Magic Kingdom comedy show when his joke was the first one chosen from the audience’s submissions. Like watching my six-year-old daughter’s eyes light up when she met Belle.
I doubt my veteran’s glance told that wide-eyed father all he needed to know about his family’s impending Disney days. I just hope his vacation offered him as many sweet surprises as mine did for me. Among the most pleasant discoveries for this accidental adult and long-time Little Mermaid fan? In person, Princess Jasmine is actually better looking than Ariel. Way better.
Ah, the magic of Disney.