I’ve waxed poetic in other posts about how much the nostalgia factor comes into play when it comes to my relationship with Disney World. I’m not going to make this post a complete reiteration of things I’ve already said. Instead, I thought I’d really delve into a bit more detail of these specific emotional attachments, and how so many of us have special places that are dear to us because of our childhood vacations.
Okay, close your eyes and think back to your own childhood trips. They’re different for everyone, but they’re no less significant. Maybe for one person it was trips to the Jersey shore. Or going to the mountains. Perhaps you visited a special family member every summer, or went to a special kids camp. What about those trips made them so exceptionally wonderful for you? What specific memories feel the strongest in your mind? Think of the smells and the sounds. Was it the sound of the sea? The laughter around a campfire? Lights twinkling? Wind in your hair? These good memories not only shape our younger years, but they help to shape the adults that we become.
In addition to my Disney trips, we also took annual summer trips to upstate NY to go camping with another family that had two daughters the same age as my sister and I. Those trips are also so dear to me – we literally think of those girls as our other sisters, and so much of our childhoods were intertwined growing up. Those trips make me think of water-skiing, swimming until our fingers wrinkled up, riding our bicycles for hours, roasting marshmallows and telling scary stories around the campfire, insanely long car rides singing along to cheesy music….. such good times. 😀
I’ve mentioned before my strong connection to my late grandfather. He and my grandmother took my sister and I on our regular Disney World trips growing up. S0 as I approach another Disney trip, I’m reminded again of how much I miss my Pop-Pop. He’s been gone for 16 years now, but I feel no less connected to him than when he was here in body. He not only gave me those special Disney World trips as a kid, but he was also my biggest supporter and fan when it came to my singing. I still remember him telling me, “Jenny, you can be a singer if you want to.” (Since everyone else looked upon my young musical aspirations as mere childhood fantasy. He took it seriously from the very beginning and never ever missed a single performance up until the very end.) I actually feel that he is my guardian angel now, his presence is so strong in my life.
And honestly, I think all these things are intertwined. I always wanted to be a singer, and Pop-Pop always believed in me. When I started going to Disney World, I was still a very young little girl – I still wanted to believe in magic and the power of my dreams. (Still do, actually!) And my dream was to become a singer. My grandparents took me to a place where you could actually believe that dreams come true, so in a way, they were giving me my dreams and helping me to reach for them. See how they’re all connected? That magical, dreams-can-come-true feeling is still something I get when I go to Disney World. I’ll carry that emotional imprint with me for all of my days.
I remember a moment last year in Disney…. I was watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks and suddenly out of the blue, I began to cry, as I felt such an overwhelming surge of emotion and connection to my Pop-Pop; like he was standing there with me – like we were watching the fireworks together. In fact, I knew he was there. And with this past year being filled with such huge life changes for me, I have felt his presence even more than ever. He’s been looking over me and helping me to navigate my way through my new life.
So as I get ready for this next Disney trip, I start to get flooded with the sensory triggers that go along with it…. the smell of popcorn and baked goods that hit you while walking down Main Street USA, the sound of the drums playing in the background as you walk into Adventureland, the musical strains of the carousel that serenade your ears when you enter Fantasyland, the way that Cinderella Castle lights up in all the shades of the rainbow once the sun sets for the day, the wind through your hair as you’re speeding along the invisible track of Space Mountain….. the list goes on and on. I think more about Pop-Pop and how much he’ll be enjoying the trip along with us – especially it being the first Disney trip for my little nieces. I hope I can give them the same kind of experiences that I had going to Disney World as a little girl: the dreams, the magic, the wonder, the sheer joy and fun. And maybe down the road when they’re all grown up, they’ll think back to these special memories that they made as children, and it will make them smile, and they’ll be reminded that there’s a place where dreams come true and magic is real.