There's something about being alone on the open road that really just lets your mind wander into places you haven't visited in a long time. Today, while I was driving all over the state taking photos, I went to my happy place: Disney World.
I was remembering how I felt when I was driving to my new apartment for the first time. It was the very first time I was going somewhere that I knew no one. I was scared and excited at the same time. I remember driving down I-4 and just as I drove over the little hill before 535 and the Downtown Disney exit, I saw the roof of Vista Way. They were those red Spanish style curved tiles that linked together to form the roof. I remember catching my breath because I didn't quite know for sure if they were the apartments I'd be living in, but had a pretty good hunch. The best, though, was that the top floor had a humongous arched window, almost the size of the whole top floor. I wished a tiny wish that I would get to live on the top floor.
As it turned out, it was Vista Way, and I did get to live on the top floor. In fact, the window I saw from the highway was the apartment I ended up living in. Funny. Though that apartment wasn't swanky and plush, it was mine. 2 other girls were placed in the apartment with me, and just like that, we'd become full fledged Walt Disney World Cast Members.
Before I went, I thought it was bad that I hadn't been to WDW since the 5th grade. Looking back now though, I realize that not being there in so long played a big role in how I viewed the World. Everything enthralled me. I remember that some nights my roommate and I would be laying in our beds and we'd just be giggling. One of us would inevitably whisper, "We work at Walt Disney World!" and we'd double over again. It was as if a dream I never knew I dreamt had come true.
One of my most favorite memories of all time is the day I attended "Once Upon A Time." It's a special training day for people who were selected to work at the Magic Kingdom. We arrived very early-it must have been around 7:00am or so. It was late August and so the heat was just waking up, just pulling it's blanket over us. The sun was already high and there we stood, a bunch of college kids with silly grins on our faces, dressed up in business attire, most, I suspect, for the first time.
Our guide walked us onto Main Street USA and told us stories and secrets that we could file away for later use with our guests. Then he stopped us about 1/2 way down, turned to the castle, and said, "Someone else has something to say to you."
And then, the "Disney Voice" came over the loudspeaker and said:
"Walt Disney World welcomes it's newest cast members to the Magic Kingdom! Thank you for being a part of this year's 25 Anniversary Celebration!"
I just got goose bumps.
I've told this story to many of my family and friends, and no one understands how magical, yes, magical, it was to be standing in the most beloved theme parks in the world knowing that I was about to help make thousands of people smile...knowing that I was chosen on a blizzardy, grey day at UMass Amherst based on one question-and I suspect a smile.
I have literally thousands upon thousands of little tiny fantastic memories of my time at Walt Disney World. There are days when I drive by a restaraunt and smell it's smoky wood burning stove smell and it takes me back to the Wilderness Lodge and the nights I'd sit by the fire with my boyfriend talking about our future. I'll hear the steam train that goes by my parents house and remember the days of counting my breaks based on how many times the train had passed me in my rotation. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is just sit and listen to Main Street USA.
I think what I loved the most about working for Walt Disney World though, was knowing that it was all based on traditions...people often ask my why the attractions are never updated. They say it in a negative way, as if Disney is falling behind. This may be true, but there is nowhere else in the world that you can go to a theme park and ride an attraction that your grandfather did when he was a young man. There's something kinda wonderful about going back with him and seeing his eyes sparkle as he tells you the story of when he first rode that ride...and even more wonderful when your mom does it too, and then you pass it on, and on etc. It's this type of tradition that people are forgetting about these days, only to replace them by yet another fast rollercoaster, another scream machine...but nothing can replace the feeling you get when you see your Papa's eye glisten with delight when he tells a story...even 9 years after it's been told.
I often joke with my friends that I'd like to take them to Walt Disney World, except, it's not a joke. Often times after a full day, I would clock out and change and one of my friends and I would go play. We did that almost everyday. I guess that's a little odd to people up here in the North, but the people I generally associated with were just as enamored with the WDW culture and what it had to offer as I was. It always made things interesting. Some days, I wish I could just fly to LBV to walk around Epcot, or to watch Spectro Magic. (Oh how I miss Spectro!) But, alas, I've now been back to CT for 5 years next month and though I would never move back to Florida, I do miss it.
I hope that everyone has a happy place they can think about every now and then, and that you are lucky enough to visit often, as I am...
Thanks for letting me share some of my memories!