In which I will try (and likely fall supremely short) to recapture all of the magic of our first day at Walt Disney World. For the record (and the purists), I often interchange the terms – Disney/disneyworld/disneyland. I know that Disneyland is a whole separate thing across the country. So as i’m typing, if the wrong one slips off my fingers, forgive me! Also – I’m going to try to just do a chronological retelling of what happned in sort of diary fashion, and will do a separate post or two about my thoughts on certain aspects of doing Disney with a special needs/medically complex child. Otherwise this will turn into a BEYOND epic-length post! (but really, what else do you expect from me???)
Ok so i last left off with our first night in Florida at the hotel and we had eaten dinner at Downtown Disney.
Bright and early Monday morning, we woke up and rushed to get everyone dressed and upstairs to the breakfast at our hotel so we could catch the shuttle bus to the tram station. Mistake number 1: not paying enough attention to that stupid schedule the night before! I should have woken up at LEAST an hour earlier than I did because in our rush, I forgot to pack pretty much EVERYTHING Kendall needed. Extra fluids, her formula/bottles, her meds, sweatshirts and jackets for me and her (everyone else had theirs though!) – so much stuff. All the stuff I had so meticulously thought through when planning what she might need at a day at the park – I forgot it all. she has a bag on the back of her wheelchair that has “emergency” stuff in it, so we managed ok, but there were a few times when her real stuff would have come in handy!
anyways – the little girls were SO LOUD and SO EXCITED all throughout breakfast – it was hard to keep trying to shush them even though no one else in the breakfast room was really sharing their enthusiasm at 7:30 am. Finally we made it to the shuttle bus, got Kendall loaded up, and started the LONNNGGGG drive over to the tram station. I was shocked by how far away our hotel was from this place. But it did serve to emphasize the fact that once we were at the park, we were STAYING at the park. None of this back and forth stuff! We made it to the tram station, waited in a long line, got loaded into the handicap car of the tram, and started to make our way to the Magic Kingdom. After about a 5 minute ride, the castle came into view, and Kaylen’s little voice yelling “there it is! I see it! I see the castle! that’s disneyworld!!!” was so cute. I had tears in my eyes from that moment onward – just SO overwhelmed with gratitude that we had made it there, we were really doing this, and wanting my babies to all be in AWE of the true magic of the magic kingdom at the happiest place on earth!
We made it through the bag check/turnstiles with no problem (I didn’t think there would be, but again with all of kendall’s fluids and such, I wasn’t sure what to expect). Our first stop, as I was instructed by so many wonderful friends and blog readers, was at City Hall for a Guest Assistance Card. I had actually read a lot of stories/tips on the GAC, and knew that it wasn’t designed to be a “skip the line” card as many people think it is. What it does though is signify to the Cast Members at the front of every ride that you need to wait in line at an alternate entrance (usually the exit) because your child’s wheelchair (or a scooter or whatever mobility device you need) cannot fit through the tight curves or handle any stairs that are in the regular line. I know there are a lot of nuances to the GAC, and I will go more into detail about OUR experiences with the GAC in another post. But we stopped in there, got the card, got our “1st Visit” buttons, and waited in line right outside the door to meet Snow White. She is another one of Kendall’s favorite princesses, so again the tears started to flow as I saw her ease out of her chair and gingerly walk up to Snow White for a hug and to have her book signed. We got our first PhotoPass pics and card, and we were on our way.
In City Hall, the CM told me that the princesses were right across the street in the Storybook Theater, so off we headed to go get in line for that. The sign out front said there was a 25 minute wait, and we could have opted to get FastPasses for this, but I thought “you know what? THIS is the reason we are here. To have Kendall (and the other girls of course) have their most magical dreams come true. Meeting the princesses is IT.” so we waited in line. I was unsure how it went, but i knew that Rapunzel (Kealey’s princess), Sleeping Beauty/Aurora (Kaylen’s princess) and Cinderella (duh) were all in the same location, so it had to be magical gold. Merida/Brave (Karissa’s princess) was in a whole other part of the park, but if we could hit 3 out of 4 in one fell swoop, all the better! Waiting in line was TORTURE for the girls! They were so excited to be AT disney finally, they wanted to see EVERYTHING all at once, not be standing in line! But we told them that a lot of Disney was waiting in lines, and we were able to look at maps and plan out where else we wanted to go after the Princesses, and talk about the autograph books and how they worked – and before we knew it, our 25 minutes had flown by and we were so close! Kendall started doing her crazy “i’m overwhelmed by too much input” flapping and tongue-flicking thing, and then her stupid bladder spasms kicked in in the middle of the line so it was interesting trying to get her laid back, hook up her catheter bag, calm her down in the middle of a busy line with lots of curious little eyes all around. I started to think maybe it would be too much for her, two whole days at Disney. I just wanted her to meet her princess Cinderella and have that magical moment.
Feeling a little crappy but still able to give me a thumbs-up.
We entered the room where each princess had her own little meet and greet station. Rapunzel was first, Aurora next, and last was Cinderella. I was so blown away with how much time each princess took with our family. Granted, 4 kids is a lot. But they each talked to each girl, stayed so true to their character, signed the books, took photos for our own cameras then the PhotoPass photogs cameras, and gave hugs to each girl. I started to have tears in my eyes just a teeny bit for Rapunzel, a little more by Aurora, and when they started to break away from Aurora, and I pulled Kendall over to run over to Cinderella, i was pretty much done for.
It was almost as if everyone in the room knew this was a magical moment. The other girls hung back, Kendall ran up to Cinderella, they hugged, and I lost it. Cinderella talked to Kendall about her dress, and her hair and her glass slippers, and Kendall was in HEAVEN. All the pain and overwhelming-ness was gone. It was just her and cinderella. The other girls came over then and joined in for the autographs and pictures, and we were about to go, I was fully crying by that point and the CM who was in charge of keeping the line moving through came over to give me a HUGE hug and just said, those are happy tears, you’re in a happy place! So I sobbed even harder, which made her start crying, my MIL start crying, and even Ben admitted to tearing up a little at that point. I told her that it had been a very long hard rough year for Kendall with a lot of medical issues, and we were celebrating that she made it – made it out alive, made it out in relatively good shape, made it to Disney, and made it to meet her princess, her dream come true. At hearing that, everyone in line around us started crying, and i was being handed kleenex from everyone around us. The big girls came over behind us then, and Cinderella sat down to take a few more special pictures with Kendall alone. You can see the huge grin on Kendall’s face. That moment right there – made the whole trip worth it. If we had left after just that – it would have been an awesome trip.
I cannot capture the magic with words. I hope the pictures somewhat do it justice, but i am sure even they will fall short. This was the magical moment. The feeling in that room for those 15 minutes was palpable – you could reach out and grab hold of the magic in it. I hope Kendall remembers that moment for her whole life. Or at least remembers it by the pictures.
Not once did we feel rushed or hurried along in any way. Not by the princesses, not by the CM’s, not by the photographers. Not even by the people waiting in line behind us. Time really stood still for a few minutes there.
As we were headed out the door, a lady who had been part of the kleenex crusade came up to me and said, can i give you a hug? I know I don’t know you but that was magical. I just wanted to tell you God bless you and your family!
I can’t put it into words.
But I can feel it even now, if I close my eyes and think back to that moment of Kendall and her stilted little walk, backpack hiked on her shoulders, fancy Cinderella dress (actually her sister’s leftover ballet costume from two years ago) and light up glass slippers on – going to meet her hero, her idol, the girl who has kept her company through more pain and sickness than any 1 person should have to endure. Magical. Breathtaking. Amazing.
I want to leave you with this feeling, so i’ll continue on in Part 2 of Day 1.