The Worst Disney Experience Ever

Please top this if you can. This is a true story from my own childhood. There is photo evidence and multiple witnesses who can recount this trip. It took nearly 30 years for my father to recover from this trip. He finally went back to Disney World with my mom about 2 years ago in his mid 60’s.

Photographic evidence of my only trip to Disney Land as a kid.

My mother grew up in Southern California in the 60’s and Disney Land was a fixture in her childhood. She and her cousin Cindy had some of the fondest memories of their lives enjoying the wonder of Disney, the shows, the rides, the fireworks. Naturally, she wanted to share this same wonder with her husband and 2 young children. I was born in Boise, Idaho and at about age 3 and 1/2, it was time to take the first excursion of what was sure to be many trips to Disney Parks growing up. We packed our bags, drove to California. My, mother, father, 6 month old little brother, and myself all headed west and eventually pulled into my great grandmothers house in sunny Southern California.

It is important to note that my great grandmother was called Granny Goose, or just “The Goosewoman.” She was married to “The Hook” who was my great grandfather. He had lost a hand at some point, although I really don’t know how, we all just assumed it was in “the war”. Granny Goose was notorious for long baths in a Pepto pink bathtub, and at this point in her life she was losing some of her mobility and had difficulty controlling all of her bodily functions. However, she was undeterred, and always ready for a Disney adventure along with the rest of us.

My mom’s cousin and childhood best friend Cindy had two children of her own. Stephanie and Allison. We all prepared to head to Disney Land for the type of adventure that dreams are made of. The irony of this whole day is that it started on such a high note. In those days, upon entering the park, you were entered into a raffle for prizes. Most of the prizes were free food or a voucher for a toy, but a few lucky customers won an airline ticket for a return trip to the park. As they entered the park, my mother won one of these airline vouchers to return…

My father took my mother, her cousin Cindy, her two children Stephanie and Allison — ages 7 and 3, myself and my little brother — 3 and 6 months, and The Goosewoman — 80 something and slightly incontinent. It was also suspected, and later confirmed, that myself and my cousin Allison both had pink eye as we entered the park that morning.

When the heart takes over, the mind sometimes takes a backseat. My mom and her cousin immediately felt the joy of childhood take over and grabbed the one child who could actually ride the majority of rides. Stephanie and the two mothers took off to share in the making of great memories. They raced through the park, riding the rides, seeing the shows, and enjoying the food. For them, it was the type of day that is perfect Instagram fodder.

It is fortunate for my family that my dad is something of a stoic. He can quietly and patiently endure what most mortals cannot. During the course of the day, my father managed 2 barely potty trained toddlers with pink eye, a six month old, and an incontinent 80 year old in a wheelchair who ended up having diarrhea (I double checked that this was true with my parents because I know it sounds like I am making this up). I don’t know how you corral all of those kids, clean up after their messes, and keep everyone moving from point to point in the park. The details of this day are still shrouded in memory, and my father does not speak in depth of what happened. You can imagine the trials he endured during that day, but suffice it to say, it is a good thing he was in the stage of life where diapers are the norm, because I think he changed everyone…

“Fatherhood is occasionally like being the titan, Atlas. You hold the world upon your shoulders so that your family can live and even thrive.”

My mom and her cousin popped in and out throughout the day to check in, and my father, with steely eyes and grim determination just smiled and confirmed that everyone was indeed having a great time. The day continued and to my father’s great credit, I think everyone but him was actually having a great time. Fatherhood is occasionally like being the titan, Atlas. You hold the world upon your shoulders so that your family can live and even thrive. You can either accept these moments and let them define you as a selfless hero, or you can get selfish, lose your cool and turn into a beast. Forever, I will admire my father for his true heroism in our family. It was often difficult, thankless, and dirty work, but it held us up and allowed us to thrive.

As the sun went down and the kids were starting to drift off to sleep, it was finally determined that enough fun was had by all. The weary crew headed out to the parking lot. Upon finally finding the cars, they discovered that indeed, Murphy’s Law was fully operational. One of the tires in my mom’s cousins car was completely flat. My dad goes to retrieve the spare. He looked everywhere, but it turns out that there was no spare tire on her vehicle. So, they piled everyone into our Suburban, which we called and even vanity plated the “FUN BUS” and drove to the nearest gas station to purchase a replacement.

Needless to say, while my father endured that day, the experience lingered and the airline ticket did not return us to Disney Land. The specter of that day haunted him throughout our childhood. Never again did I attend a Disney Park until I was an adult, and even then my father did not attend. Now, I have 2 kids of my own. We have yet to travel to Disney yet. My mother is excitedly waiting for the day we all decide to go. My father, well, we’ll see whether he can be convinced that Disney truly is, “the happiest place on Earth.”