Not that there’s ever been any shortage of evidence, but my three older children now have solid proof that we love the youngest more. By their standards, of course.
When I was raising my three older children, three little stairsteps born in just under six years, I was firm about one thing. We would not, I insisted, be a Disney family. I didn’t see the appeal of packing up and driving or flying to an oversized amusement park. I had all sorts of arguments: long lines, sunburn, expense, crowds, and nothing but whirling rides to entertain us. When they got old enough to take themselves to the happiest place on earth, I told them, they could go.
I got my way. They grew up as Disney theme-park virgins. My son was the only one who ever got there and he, just as I’d insisted, drove himself and his girlfriend the summer they graduated from high school. But something changed last year. I had an assignment in Orlando and we decided to make a family vacation out of it. The others were already out of the house, away at school or living on their own, so it was just the three of us: me, my husband and the 15-year-old “baby.”
I got my work done and we spent a few days playing at Walt Disney World. As luck would have it, we were there in October and each night the park was transformed into Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
So much for sticking to a position. I took one step inside the gate and went completely over to the mouse’s side. I elbowed my way to the front of the line to watch the parade both times it threaded through the park that night. As we “trick-or-treated” (naturally there was trick-or-treating) I was scolded by my daughter for (accidentally, I swear!) going through one line twice. I stood in queue for the rides without complaining. I traded pins with the pre-schooler waiting behind me and then worried he might have gotten the better deal.
While my daughter watched bemused, I acted like, well, a kid.
Of course. Exactly as Walt Disney and his army of imagineers planned. I didn’t throw myself down on the ground and pitch a tantrum when it was time to leave, but I dragged my feet all the way to the airport.
When we were all together at Thanksgiving there was a lot of teasing and good-natured grumbling about how the baby was the favorite and the trip to Orlando was just one more example of getting the best of everything. And there were more than a few comments about my fall from my high horse.
Now, here it is October again. And I keep thinking about that skeleton band in the parade. And the way the lights illuminating the castle changed colors every few minutes. And just how much fun it was to spend a few days in a magic kingdom away from deadlines and the aggravation of the real world.
You win, Disney. I want to go back. Just do me a favor, please. Don't tell my kids.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com