Tonawanda News

December 2, 2013

CRIB NOTES: Getting your money's worth at Disney World

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Orlando, Fla. — Having the ability to type that dateline preceding this column didn’t come cheaply. Getting here cost a lot, and then life got kinda expensive once we started spending time in the Sunshine State. Mouse ears can’t be had cheaply.

And what do you pay for, really? The lines can be ridiculously long, the walking is incessant and the children are often ungrateful and cranky. When you actually write down a pro/con list to such a vacation, the cons win in a landslide.

But, just like in football, life doesn’t play out on paper. There are certain moments that happen on vacation that simply can’t be priced.

Like the first time you see your son truly, wholly captivated by something. Watching Rigby marvel at the etchings in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios animation gallery, I could see that he was inspired for the first time — not “inspired” as in “inspired to throw his brand new, theme park-priced Buzz Lightyear toy off a moving vehicle” but moved in a life-altering fashion. He immediately needed to buy a pen (he didn’t even care if it was a princess pen, but a clerk pointed us to Mickey Mouse pens) and sat down with a piece of paper. He hopped up and beamed five minutes later, trembling in a way that makes the observer unsure whether something really good or something really bad is occurring.

“Daddy! I drew Mickey!”

The doodle did indeed resemble The Mouse.

“Great job, buddy.”

“Daddy? I want to be a drawer when I grow up.”

The English language being the disaster it is, I will specify he meant an artist (he didn’t know that word and said “draw-er” as in one who draws; he by no means intends to spend life holding people’s clean clothes or cutlery). Anyway ...

“Really, dude? That’s so cool!”

“Yep! I can draw Mickey and Buzz and Woody and ‘Star Wars’ and everything!”

We bought him a Disney coloring set that afternoon and took him into an animation class at the park. He ate that up, then wanted to see every gallery we came across the rest of the trip. I realize he may forget before you even read this that he ever wanted to be an artist, but if he chooses to become one then I will remember the day that the world-famous Rigby Lane began his career.

I will also always remember the dream date I had in the Magic Kingdom. The park was open until midnight for select guests (as in those who shelled out to stay at a Disney property). Rigby was all out of magic by about 8 p.m., though, and Mommy graciously took him back to the hotel (I never paid attention to my mom at theme parks, but if she did half of what Mommy does for Penny and Rigby then I owe her eternal gratitude). That left Penny and me alone, in the first place I ever found any sort of happiness as a teenager, to spend time with the girl of my dreams.

My dreams didn’t involve pushing my date around in the wheelchair we rented for her and her brother (cheaper than a stroller, and bigger), but whatever.

I whisked her away from Tomorrowland to meet some princesses in Fantasyland. Then we went on Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland. Then back over to Fantasyland. In the Florida humidity, I worked up a streak of sweat the likes of which causes some of the world’s nastiest rashes in uncomfortable places.

But I didn’t really care. I got to see Penny happy — truly happy — to have some time with me that we ordinarily don’t get. Some of her joviality probably came from the Doc McStuffins doctor kit she acquired before we left. But I opt to think most of it came from being with her dear ol’ dad.

I know that’s where my joy came from, the time together. In particular, there was a quiet moment before we left during which we sat in front of Cinderella’s castle — whose halls were decked for Christmas — with holiday music playing. The park was nearly empty, and we basked in the glow of the castle and the statue of the man who imagined it into reality. There was a stillness and peace to the moment that can’t be recorded by this inadequate scribe. For maybe the first time ever, I actually, literally forgot about each and every one of my cares.

We discussed Walt Disney and how he proved a few of us really do get to live out our dreams. I told her that, with enough work, she could make a dream bigger than Walt Disney World into reality. I got a picture with her. I got a kiss and hug. I hope she got a fraction of the inspiration I did.

Yeah, I also got my money’s worth.

Contact Paul Lane at