Friday, July 22, 2011
The Magic, Memories and my Family!
Have you ever watched one of those Disney ads and had chills run down your back? Just the idea of sharing a day full of magic with your family, spinning inside the Mad Hatter’s tea cups, possibly coasting down Space Mountain into the unknown or even flying high above Fantasyland on Dumbo’s back is enough to bring tears of joy to my eyes. Who knows maybe for you it’s the Disney memories from when you where younger holding your dad’s hand while meeting Mickey, or the first time you walked through those magical gates with your own children’s hands in yours seeing Cinderella’s Castle before you or maybe you have dreams of finally taking those first steps inside the Magic Kingdom and walking down Maine Street, USA. Whatever thoughts or memories come to mind during the most magical place on earth’s 30 second ads, they certainly grab your attention don’t they? Suddenly you find yourself daydreaming about Princesses, Pirates, lands far away, and having your family right along side of you for each and every new and incredible adventure.
For me, the idea of a Disney Family Vacation doesn’t just bring the excitement of a magical adventure into larger than life lands filled with rides and journeys into our imaginations; the truth in a nut shell is the real excitement for us is the journey itself to WDW. A trip which brings my family, myself, my husband, my children and my parents together making memories we have been allowed to gather, granted wishes for one more year enabling us to share and imprint upon our hearts precious memories gifted to us and given in joy, inspired each year to create ….TOGETHER.
Last month, my parents took all of us to Walt Disney World in Florida for a 10 day trip to mark my Life Day; five years from the date we thought we were celebrating my goodbye trip. I have to tell you this was the most amazing trip we have had since we first starting making this Disney pilgrimage of sorts in 2006. The theme this year, The Magic, Memories and You, along with the brilliant Castle display, hit home for each and every one of us as we planned our family adventures through all four parks. For the six of us, myself, my husband Johnny, our boys, Joshua and Micah and my parents Bobby and Patty, coming back to Walt Disney World is an indescribable, renewal of hope and life, filled with passion, joy and adventure. A larger than life mile stone, filled with internal fireworks, an emotional slide show of memories, a time to celebrate the life we have been given together, moments of real magic, memoires and for us, HOPE!
Many of you know looking back at 2006, that summer marked both a dark and yet beautiful time for my family and I. Three months into chemo with another three before me my folks gave us a weeks notice and then swept each of us off and away on a grander than grand Disney Vacation. We had the time of our lives, my bald head and all. The memories will forever stay with me, with the boys, with Johnny and with my parents. Why? Those days spent traveling around Epcots’ World Showcase, catching a ride on Aladdin’s magic carpets, meeting Sorcerer Mickey, trekking through Africa will stay with us forever but the friendships we made that summer are what really make our memories, our desire to come back to this magical place so strong.
If you have never taken the time to get to know many of the wonderful cast members at Walt Disney World, then I have to be honest you are missing the greatest part of what Disney has to offer. These folks are the ones who bring the magic to life! In 2006 we met several wonderful cast members, Luis, who is still currently at the Garden Grill inside Epcot has come to be part of our family. From the first time he came to our table he took us under his wings, loving, caring and amazingly attentive. We left that day, feeling as if we were not just there on a vacation , but as if we were now apart of the Disney family. As we spent our last night in the Magic Kingdom that year I watched as folks hurried out the exits, racing for the buses with not a care in the world but to get back to a soft warm bed. I stood there taking it all in, the stores on Maine Street lit up, Mickey balloons in the hands of little ones, skipping happily along, and music piping into the streets as the Castle was sending everyone home with her goodnight kiss. I felt as if time had slowed down for me, giving me a last glimpse at what this cancer of mine was fighting to take a way from me….life.
I fought back the tears as best as I could seeing my boys hop, skip and smile out of the corner Emporium, they were so happy. For the first time in such a long, long time they were unaware breast cancer was anywhere within striking distance. I was suddenly thrown out of my time warp and the tears would not be held back! Out of nowhere the ‘what if’s ‘came running into play. I was so afraid in those moments, fearful I would not live to see my children grow into men, to bring my own grandchildren to Walt Disney World, to see the magic through their eyes for the first time or to experience the magic of this wonderful place again. I fell apart right there on Maine Street, USA, with Cinderella’s Castle behind me and my family beside me. That night a promise was made, if I was to be taken down by this beast we call breast cancer; my beautiful, selfless, loving parents would bring the boys back so they could once again let the fear and worry of the Big C go. But my mom being the wonderful woman she is took it a little farther as she pulled me into her arms, wiping my tears away…she promised no matter what, even if it was for just one day a year we would return together, all six of us, to mark each and very year I had taken back from the beast!
This June we stayed at the Pop Century, ate like kings and queens, played in the parks till the wee hours of the night, had dinner with our friend Luis and met his beautiful family. This was the highlight of our visit. Each time we come back to WDW the boys ask every night when we will see Luis. This year we had the honor of sitting down at the Garden Grill to share a meal with our dear friend Luis and the privilege of being waited on by his own son Filipe who went above and beyond to make our meal one we will always remember. This same man has opened his heat to our family, making us part of his very own. In 2007 when we returned, Luis recognized me, after a full of year of 1000’s of guests through his door he knew me. I did not look the same a year later, after all my bald head had hair and I had grown lashes and brows again so to say I looked like a different person is an understatement, yet Luis knew me right away. He stood there in tears, and then hugged me, telling me how he and his family had been praying for me all this time. I can not even begin to explain how big of an impact this memory has on me each time I think back on the Garden Grill and Luis. All this time later Luis and his family keep in touch with us, checking in on me and my health, and welcoming us into their lives as if we have been family all our lives. There is a Hawaiian saying, one which Disney themselves made a household phrase in their movie Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana, means family, family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. “ Luis has put the very meaning of the word Ohana into action everyday in both his commitment and love of his job and his guests. The truth is without this experience, without Luis and the depth of his commitment to his guests, to those passing through his door every night at the Garden Grill we may not have been as quick to return to Walt Disney World as we are today Let’s face it we could have chosen another destination, a less expensive place to vacation, but because of this Luis’ care and concern, this cast member’s willingness to open his heart, freely offering his kindness to our family as if we were his own , Disney World is our number one destination.
And so as I close my thoughts I my one wish is for you all to know how grateful I am to be here today, able to share my stories, and my love of Disney. Some folks are not as quick to be happy for your happiness, and some may find reasons to personally begrudge you or your family special memories as I have shared here with you but I hope deep down someday they will come to understand why we as a family have chosen Walt Disney World each and every year since 2006. For my family and I it’s about the simple pleasure of ensuring a memory that will not fade away, laying down another mile stone, and a marker of Hope, to create more memories together and to come home to our Disney family. We make this pilgrimage as I like to call it not only to have fun but to let our worries go for a time, to inspire our imaginations and to imprint our family legacy of Hope upon both our hearts and souls, to refresh our spirits and to appreciate these moments we share together right here, right now! At the same time we are very aware these moments we share today, partake in together in the present are more than just times in our lives, they are moments, memories we will remember when all our material things have gone by the way side or when we have watched a loved one pass from this world to the next. These memories we have created will continue on, we will them pass on, knowing they are apart of us, who we are, who we were at one time and this hope continuing to bur inside of our hearts will stay strong for as long as we have the Magic, the Memories and each other!