I know that most parents get just as excited as their kiddos do when they hear mention of the Magic Kingdom.
Me? Not so much.
Why, you ask? Why does the ‘greatest place on Earth’ seem anything BUT great to me? It’s simple really – it was after a day of fun and Mickey Mouse that I experienced the single most traumatic event of my life.
Indulge me, if you will, while I venture back to 1991. I was seventeen, enjoying some quality time on a lovely family vacation with Mom, Dad, and my baby brother (he was 8 years old at the time). We had driven the family mini-van from our little town in the Midwest to Orlando. On our way, we’d made stops at my grandma’s house in Kentucky and Savannah Georgia for some sightseeing. We were in high spirits when we reached Disney World, fully ready for a day of fun. We rode rides, ate cotton candy, watched a show, bought souvenirs and all the other stuff that visitors do there…
Evening was approaching and rather suddenly things began to change. My Mom has struggled with severe allergies for years, and on this particular day she started to have a reaction to one of the many tropical flowers that were planted everywhere. She was weak and Dad felt he needed to stay with her. He thrust the keys my way, reminded me how to get to the van and instructed me to get the van and come right back. I jogged away in the direction he had shown me and after several minutes I found the van.
Now, prior to this day I had only ever driven in our small town of approximately 7,000. I’d never driven on an interstate or dealt with heavy traffic at all. It seemed like it would be no big deal though, after all my task was to drive from our lot to the spot near the entrance where my family waited. “I can handle this,” I thought to myself.
At first it was even fun. I felt grown-up and felt sure that I’d been given more responsibility than I’d ever known before. Also, I knew that doing this chore was helping my family and that made me feel good. So there I was driving through our lot toward the park – when I came upon my first obstacle. The guys at the little booth that connected our lot to the next one would not let me pass. I began to feel nervous, but being an industrious gal – I figured there would have to be another way around and so I went the other way. Once in the next lot, I was again not allowed to go closer to the park – only farther away.
Within minutes I found myself where no small town girl with zero city driving experience should be – the crazy busy freeway in front of Disney World.
To say I was scared would maybe be the biggest understatement of all time. I was petrified. This was before the days of cell phones. I had no way to contact my parents to let them know where I was. I was bawling like a baby when I saw the next Disney World exit and took it. This time (after being told ‘no’ by yet another parking lot attendant) I simply parked and started to run. I ran for what felt like forever, tears streaming down my face.
I found my folks. Mom was feeling worse - not better, and after hearing my story, Dad was angry to say the least… not at me, but at the guys who wouldn’t let me through.
“They’ll let ME through,” he said with a determined expression.
To this day I don’t know what he said to them, but they did let him through. He helped Mom into the car and then made sure my brother and I were also loaded and secured. The car was quiet for a while. We were all thinking about what had happened, and thankfully what didn’t. From that day on, my thoughts of Disney World have always been dark - except for when I think of my Dad rescuing me.
I suppose the truth is that although that day was scary, it was also a day filled with comfort and safety – the comfort and safety that only a loving and protective father can give. And I have to admit it was fun to meet Mickey Mouse and see the Country Bears…..
So, maybe we will do Disney World someday. We’ll see. I just know that if we do go, I’m not driving.