View Full Version : What Disneyland means to me

04-12-2009, 07:43 PM
Hi everyone. First of all let me say that I am a COMPLETE NEWBIE here, and this is my first post.

I've been reading a lot of the boards, but as a newbie I have to say that (OMG) it is a bit overwhelming. I have a few things to post/questions to ask, but there are so many different forums here that I'm having a hard time figuring out the appropriate area. Therefore, I apologize in advance if I've posted in the wrong place.

I wanted to share my own story about Disneyland and the impact that it's had on my life. I suppose there is no reason why anyone would care about what I have to say, but I guess you could say I've been inspired by reading others accounts of what makes Disney so special for them. It's actually rather difficult to write this, but I'm going to give it a shot.

The story starts when I was a small child, growing up in a small town in Wisconsin. My parents had separated when I was just a baby, so my major knowledge of my father was just the few days out of the year where he would come over from Germany (Well, West Germany at that time, actually) and visit me.

This is where my Disney dream begins. When I was 7 years old, my father had taken a trip to California and, even though he wasn't a Disney fan per se, he stopped in for a day at Disneyland. When he came to Wisconsin to visit me after his California trip, he told me all about California and Disneyland, and what really stuck in my 7-year-old mind was his account of riding Space Mountain. (It was the year Space Mountain opened.) In 1977, as you might imagine from the mere fact that I was a 7 year old boy, I was hooked on Star Wars and all things outer space. The way he described the Space Mountain experience to me really just blew my young mind. My father was a journalist and author by trade, so his descriptions were particularly visual. I got so excited hearing about his trip, and he told me that one day he would take me there.

That was probably not the best thing to tell a 7-year-old, because I waited for that day for the rest of my life. While I was able to spend a certain amount of time with my father over the years in some truly amazing places, we never went to Disney together.

Not to go into too much detail, but my life as a young person was hard. I was kicked out of my house at a very early age (15) and ended up living on the streets for a short period of time before a friend's family took me in. (I still consider them my family to this day). I had a really hard time with school and jobs after high school etc.

Still, I never let go of my Disney dream. I still hoped that one day my Dad and I could share that magic together.

When I was 24, I packed everything I could fit into my sub-compact car and drove to California. I was working at a dead-end retail job at the time but was able to transfer to a store in the San Francisco bay area. I STILL held on to my dream of at least seeing Disneyland once, but even then I just really couldn't afford it. (I was lucky if I could afford to eat, in those days.)

A few years later, things really started to turn around for me. By sheer luck I landed a data-entry job with a new cell phone provider that was just coming online. I was in the right place at the right time, and within weeks I had moved up to a support job where I was, for the first time in my life, making a decent living wage.

NOW I finally was able to afford to get myself down to Disneyland. I won't ever forget that first trip, but that's yet another story.

At that point in my life, I really felt like I had "made it." I was able to do something that I had been waiting for since I was 7 years old. You can bet that the first ride I EVER rode at Disneyland was Space Mountain.

I would write to my Dad about my Disney experiences, and reminded him a couple of time that he'd promised to take me there when I was 7. I found it to be such an amazing and magical place (perhaps because I'd built it up so much in my own mind since I was a kid) that I just really wanted to share it with him, at least once.

Unfortunately it never happened.

One day, about 2 years ago, my Dad sent me the book "Walt Disney World: The Unofficial Guide" in the mail, mentioning to me that he'd heard it was one of the best resources for planning a trip. My heart skipped a beat when that happened, because I thought that finally I would get to share Disney with my father. I even started making plans.

Unfortunately, my father became very ill after that, and passed away last year before we were ever able to share that magic.

I'm having trouble writing this even now, but when I get back to Disney again sometime in the future, I just hope that he will be looking down on me and seeing what I've seen in Disney and feeling the magic that I have always felt.

So you see, Disney for me is much more than just a vacation or a day at a theme park. It's really something special that has touched my life since I was a young child, even though I never got to Disneyland until I was 27. It was the dream that kept be going sometimes, and the dream I'll never let go of.

I don't know if there is any moral to this story, other that perhaps if you want to share this magic with someone special, don't wait. Nothing lasts forever.

I've tried to mention this story to others, friends and family, etc, but no one really "gets it" or understands what this means to me. When I started listening to the DIS Unplugged podcasts and reading these forums, I felt inspired to share.

The magic will live on.

- Alex

Sherry E
04-12-2009, 07:55 PM
Alex, your story of why Disneyland/Disney means what it means to you is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I am CERTAIN I will not be the only one reading it and getting choked up! I had to grab for my box of tissues! I have shared on the DIS in the past that my love for Disneyland and the anticipation of the yearly trips got me through a very difficult childhood myself, and had it not been for the joy Disneyland, I might be a different sort of person today. I have a feeling there are many more folks out there on the DIS who have that same sort of connection to Disneyland, and for very similar reasons. It is not just a fun place to go for many of us - it actually holds some emotional meaning.:goodvibes

04-12-2009, 07:56 PM
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Alex. :thumbsup2

Very inspirational. I hope you find someone special to share your love of Disney with.


04-12-2009, 08:12 PM
Sherry, thanks so much for the kind words. I really appreciate your comments and I have to tell you that there is a certain feeling of joy here that I've found somewhere where people understand what the heck I'm talking about.

I was going to post this in a separate thread, but then I thought I'd just post it here since is sort of follows...

This is something that to this day (well until right now) I have never shared with anyone. It's something I did at Disneyland that I doubt I would ever do in any other situation, but it's stuck in my memory.

I was at Disneyland once by myself, and was having some Clam Chowder one night at the place over in front of the Haunted Mansion (where the Columbia docks) which I believe is now a (ugh) McDonalds Fry stand.

On this particular night, there were 4 boys of the 10-12-year-old variety who were eating there at one of the tables. I was sitting right next to them so I could hear their entire conversation. Apparently they were being picked up by parents at park closing, but that was hours away.

Actually only 3 of them were eating, as one didn't have any money. What's even worse, the other 3 were teasing him about it and saying some kind of awful things about his family being poor etc. (They were making fun of his clothing and stuff even... kids can be mean - they wouldn't share their food with him.)

I'm not even really sure exactly what came over me, and as I mentioned, in any other situation I wouldn't have done it, but he just seemed so sad (and hungry) and it was just really bumming me out.

As i threw my trash away I walked back to their table and I handed the kid a $20 bill. (I would have given him less but I only had 20's). He got this really puzzled look on his face as if to say "why is some stranger giving me money?" and I just said "Disneyland's no fun if you're that hungry."

As I walked away he turned to me from the food line and gave me big smile and shouted thank you. I never saw him again, but that was probably the best $20 I ever spent.

Maybe because of my own childhood and hard times I felt like I knew what it's like to always be the kid with no money and to be teased about it.

I guess I think that most people would find what I did a bit "creepy" (a strange man giving money to some unknown child), which is why I've never shared it with anyone, but it really made my night, and has been one of my favorite memories of Disneyland to this day.

There REALLY IS magic there.

- Alex

04-12-2009, 09:14 PM
Alex, thank you for telling your story! I can relate to how the mere idea of DL can get you through very difficult times.

I've been very sick for most of my childrens' lives. On more than one occasion, they have seen me come within inches of dying, which can make for a very difficult, confusing childhood. Unfortunately I couldn't change those circumstances or their experiences. As a mom who wanted my kids to have good memories to offset the scary ones, I've made a point to infuse their lives with Disney magic whenever possible.

No matter how I am feeling, we've made it a point to go to DL at least once a year for the last 10 years. The planning and dreaming carried our family through so much! Granted, I usually have to roll through the park on a scooter and sleep part of the day away, but that is never what they remember. They remember dancing in Toon Town with Goofy, riding their first roller coaster, and watching Bill Hill.

My youngest daughter is 15 now, and a die-hard Disney fan. When you ask her why she loves it so much, she said that Disney Magic is what keeps us going year to year.

Thanks again for sharing your story! It sounds like the 20 years of planning until your first trip is much like our yearly experience; it is a reminder to focus on the joy!

04-12-2009, 09:19 PM
Thanks again for sharing your story! It sounds like the 20 years of planning until your first trip is much like our yearly experience; it is a reminder to focus on the joy!

Thanks for the reply. I really liked your reminder to "focus on the joy!" I think we could all use that "in these troubled times" (drink).

I've been unemployed since the end of last year, but you can be sure that as soon as I'm working again I'll be making a trek down to Disneyland. Until then, it's something to look forward to!

04-12-2009, 09:58 PM
hugs for you Alex and you should work for Disney as you have magic in you.
For me there are fond memories of my dad and you story really touched me.
Keep on making the magic.:hug::hug::hug:

04-12-2009, 10:01 PM
Alex, thank you so much for posting such heartening recollections. DH and I both were getting teary-eyed!

We're both huge Disney fans but the park is something special in its own way. For us, DL is a means to cherish the past and to celebrate the present. So many memories are wrapped up in happy experiences within the park. DH was born the year DL opened and he spent many years with his family seeing the park evolve and flourish. Some of the original and early rides he goes on and remembers what it's like to be right there in that spot with his father and mother. Both are deceased, so this is a way to remember the love shared so long ago.

For me, each visit brings back happy memories of our years together. No matter how many times we go, we're still like little kids full of wonder and joy each time we're there. :love:

Again, thanks so much for posting such heartfelt memories. You made my night! :hug:

04-12-2009, 10:06 PM
Alex, thanks for sharing!

I'm so sorry to hear about your father, but I'm one of those people who believe our loved ones still sorta get to experience things with us sometimes. I'm sure he was with you in some way.

Also, giving the 20 over to the kid was probably the sweetest thing ever. It's something that kid will tell HIS kids and THEIR kids about how special Disneyland is. It's not creepy period. And I have pity on the heartless person who thinks it is even in the least bit!

I'm sorry to hear about your unemployed status, we're there too..and sometimes it feels like our last trip (in december) was a goodbye for a long time. Which makes me tear up (even now). I hope I'm wrong..but I guess we have our videos and pictures and memories for now.

04-12-2009, 10:13 PM
I really enjoyed your story AlexMouse and I am so glad that you shared it with us!:)
You are right in that this is the place that everyone will "get it" when you talk about how special Disneyland is to you!
Disneyland is very special to me and my family and no matter how often I get to go, planning my next trip is what gets me through the difficult times, even if that trip will not be for a year or more.
There is something about Disneyland that people either get or don't!
I think that giving that money to that boy was not creepy or strange, it was compassionate and generous and he will probably never forget you or how meaningful your gesture was. Kindness like that makes people realize that there is good in the world!
I am sorry that you never got to experience Disneyland with your father. Although it is not the same, we experienced the loss of my mother-in-law before she could come to Disneyland with us.
We had planned the trip for October and we were so excited to take her to Disneyland as she had never been before. We could not wait for her to experience this magical place with her grandchildren. She was so excited too!
Unfortunately, she went in to get a routine procedure done in September and died.
Our trip was scheduled for October and people could not believe we were still going as they thought it would make us sadder. We knew that we had to go and although there would be sad moments, she would be there with us, in spirit.
You seem like a great person and I know things will get better for you really soon. :goodvibes
Keep on enjoying Disneyland, even if it is only in your good memories, for the time being.

04-13-2009, 04:15 AM
hugs for you Alex and you should work for Disney as you have magic in you.

Funny you mention that...

It's something I've been mulling over as of late. I've been looking at the IT job openings at Disney in socal... I'm just not sure if it's the right thing. I've heard people (some of whom have worked for Disney) telling me that working for them will in fact destroy the magic that I love so much... but I suppose this largely depends on your perspective and the position you have within the company. (plus, I'm not really much of a 9-5 type person... I'm sort of one of those come-in-when-I-feel-like-it but work til 3 AM kind of people...)

(perhaps someone can chime in here about working for Disney...)

I actually have a funny story about that as well...

I've been to WDW only a few times (well, 5, actually, but not since 2000)... and almost every time I've been there I've been constantly (and when I say constantly I do mean that... not just once or twice) asked by Disney Cast Members, particularly in the hotels, if I worked for Disney! My sister and I were never really able to figure out exactly why people kept assuming I worked for them. It's been just one of those odd things that I've never been quite able to figure out. When I'd ask about it they'd just say something like "you just seem like you do" or "you just look like you do." (?????)

Disney Karma perhaps?

04-13-2009, 04:32 AM
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who responded and shared some of your stories here as well. I really appreciate your comments and all the kind words.

Reading about going to Disneyland after something incredibly bad has happened suddenly made me remember my trip there the week after 9/11.

That was a strange trip, for sure. There were people there, but the attitude sure was different. It's not like people weren't "happy" but everything seemed so subtle.

I'll never forget riding Soarin and having the entire theatre erupt into applause at the moment when you fly over the aircraft carrier... I'm not sure how I feel about that NOW, but at the time it seemed the right thing to do.

Was anyone else there shortly after 9/11? I'd be interested to hear your experience.

04-13-2009, 05:11 AM
I was pin trading back then. I was there the day before and the day the park reopened. Was over in DCA crying with others and the moment of silence. That day the parks changed over night, very sombre, lot of fear as you then start the what-if-game of what will you do if they come here. I live near a tank farm and what if, over and over it pops up seems every 6 months now. Not just terrorists but irate employees and stuff.

A lot of patriotism and flag waving stuff going on and a lot of fear and sorrow. I slept through 9/11 as always and mom just irked me back to bed as I could not understand or grasp what had happened. I only have bits to remember but there was the special fireworks I saw from the second level of the Mark Twain. There was the moment of silence and my friend was very upset as she was from NYC one time and she worried so much about her friends. Her friend was a fireman from New England who worked at DL as a fireman. He and other firemen were deeply affect as their firemen brethren were lost.:hug::hug:

04-13-2009, 05:22 AM

Thanks for sharing that. My sister and I almost canceled our trip that week, but in the end decided to go anyway if for no other reason than to "not let them win."

04-13-2009, 02:28 PM
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I'm sorry you were not able to have your father close by during your life. I can't help but think that you must have inherited his writing ability though. Your ability to relate your story in such an articulate manner is definitely a skill! :hug:

04-13-2009, 03:23 PM
What GREAT stories you have shared with us!! Thank YOU for that!! :) I am grateful for every trip that I get to take with my girls to DL, it's magical every single time. Whether we make the magic for someone or someone makes it for us DL is an amazing place.

Alex, I hope we see you more around here and I hope you're back to work soon!!! Apply for a Disney job, you never know what you might feel working there. :)

Oh and just so you know, the McD's fries and the burgers over in DCA are GONE! YAY!!!! I never liked having them in the parks personally so I'm glad they are gone. :)

04-13-2009, 05:05 PM
Thank you so much for sharing that. I think all of us have very personal and sentimental reasons why we love DL so much. I know I do. :)

I think it was wonderful you gave that kid $20. He's never going to forget that.

04-13-2009, 08:16 PM
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I'm sorry you were not able to have your father close by during your life. I can't help but think that you must have inherited his writing ability though. Your ability to relate your story in such an articulate manner is definitely a skill! :hug:

Thanks so much for the kind words! I really appreciate it. My Dad's books still do quite well on Amazon, so his legacy does live on in that way.

He wrote for the Economist and the London Financial Times for many years, and then retired and wrote books about his greatest love - classical music. He was a truly amazing man.

There was a lot about Disney (particularly WDW) that I think he would have absolutely loved.

04-13-2009, 08:21 PM
Oh and just so you know, the McD's fries and the burgers over in DCA are GONE! YAY!!!! I never liked having them in the parks personally so I'm glad they are gone. :)

That just made my day!

See, you can tell how long it's been since I've been there!

Is there anything in that space now? I really miss the clam chowder.

04-13-2009, 09:13 PM
That just made my day!

See, you can tell how long it's been since I've been there!

Is there anything in that space now? I really miss the clam chowder.

Last time we were there I don't remember seeing anything there. But I don't remember walking that way either. LOL We were only there for a few days so that happens on our short trips. :) We go back in a couple weeks, I'll see if I remember to check for you. :)

04-13-2009, 09:52 PM
What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. I made it through the first without crying but by the 2nd I was in tears.

Disneyland is so special to me also.

04-14-2009, 07:35 PM
I am so glad that I read your post, Alex. Thank you so much for sharing a story that clearly came from your heart. :flower3:

I am ashamed to admit that when I first read the title, I thought to myself that of course I know what Disneyland means to everybody; we all love the magic, etc. :guilty:But once I started to read it, oh my, I felt really happy that I did read it. :surfweb:

I had a very happy childhood and so I cannot relate to some of your story in that way, (how fortunate I have been). :)Instead, Disneyland for me has ALWAYS been a part of my life. I grew up very nearby and started going regularly when I was a baby. We went for all of our birthdays and when out of town relatives came, and just for the heck of it. My Mom was Disney-crazy too and that's where I get it from. Even now, living 2,000 miles away, I still am Disney obsessed. :banana:We make a trip there every time we go to California for a visit. I can't even imagine a life without Disney! :confused3

Your story was so touching, I know your Father was with you on your trip. I have lost my parents now too and life is never the same once they are gone. :sad2: For me, part of the joy of Disneyland is the memories I have of my childhood there, things are different in many ways, there are new rides and new parades, new restaurants, but it is still the same, you know? It's not the THINGS at Disney that make it Disney. It's the feelings and for me the memories, something you cannot bottle or even describe with words very accurately. But it's there. And the people on the board all feel it. Your post really brought home to me that we all come from different backgrounds, we all have different life experiences, but Disneyland brings us all together :grouphug:and whether or not we have the same experiences in life, we share this joy, this love of Disney.

So I thank you, Alex, for sharing your story with us. :thumbsup2I'm usually very upbeat and positive, so it was really not like me to have a questionable thought like I did BEFORE reading your post. :confused3I'm very glad you felt safe sharing it with us. And that young boy you gave the money to? Well, I hope that he paid it forward. I have a feeling that he did. Afterall, there IS magic at Disneyland. :wizard:

04-14-2009, 07:37 PM
I just wanted to say thank you again to everyone that responded. I really wasn't sure what to expect, and I can tell you that I had to take a few deep breaths to get through writing that first post. I really appreciate all the kind words you all have offered and "in these troubled times" (drink) every little bit of positivity helps!

04-14-2009, 07:58 PM
Alex, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. It is obvious how personal the words were/are, and how much honesty is in them.
In some ways, we have much in common. We are the same age, and like you I heard wonderful stories of this far-off place that had magic around every turn. Because of our financial situation, it was about as accessible as Mars, but to know it even existed made me happy, and to see the images and hear the music on TV made me tear up with every emotion at once. Finally, as a teen, I got there myself, and have returned at every time in my life that it was possible. Now, as a mother to three children myself, I have made it a point to make Disneyland a tangible part of my kids' lives.
My father also never made it to see Walt's land, but he never wanted to go. He wasn't a "people" person, or a "Happier Ever After" person. Life kicked him hard early on and magic was lost on him. When he passed in 1992 I doubt that missing out on Disneyland was one of his regrets. However, on every trip to DL I take the time to admire the things that he would have appreciated - The train, the architecture, the details in design, the historical reproductions....and I feel him closer to me. If that makes sense??
Something cool I was able to accomplish was that in 1993 I introduced my Mom to Disneyland. She had also had a hard-scrabble childhood and had never made it until then, at the age of 47. She has returned with us twice since and is looking forward to our next trip with the same excitement as our children....
So I guess I "get" what you are saying. And I also think that your story about the $20 was just awesome. I was that child, at different points in my life, and a stranger sweeping in with money would just about have been like true heaven-sent event. I am sure that boy remembers it, and will some day to something equally as selfless for another child doing without.....
And you can bet that the next time I return to Disney, I'll have an extra $20 stashed in my pocket "just in case..." ;)

04-14-2009, 09:16 PM
Well, now y'all have almost brought ME to tears, reading all the incredibly warm responses here and what you all have shared about your own personal experiences.

My father also never made it to see Walt's land, but he never wanted to go. He wasn't a "people" person, or a "Happier Ever After" person.

My Dad was by no means a Disney fan. He spoke several times about things he disliked about Disney in general. Furthermore, he was not a man who liked children at all. He mostly found them annoying and always referred to them as "monsters."

The last time we were together was a trip we took to New York. He promised to take me to any Broadway show I wanted to go to. I wanted to see Lion King but we weren't able to get tickets. I picked Beauty and the Beast as my consolation show...

He kind of hemmed and hawed about it but it was a promise so he got us tickets. It was a Wednesday matinee and the theatre was packed full of very young kids. I thought my Dad was going to explode.

But wouldn't you know... by halfway through the first act he had forgotten all of that and was just absolutely loving it. My Dad always had this thing about "the French" and he was in absolute hysterics over the performance from Lumiere. He ended up calling B&B one of the best shows he'd ever seen on Broadway. (That's saying a lot from a guy that wrote about classical music for a living!)

I know that there would have been a lot about the parks that he would have loved had we ever been able to get there together. He would have adored World Showcase, for sure. I can't help thinking about the fun we would have had there together!

I hope to get back to "the world" someday!

04-15-2009, 01:53 PM
Alex, thanks so much for sharing that wonderful story. It seems to have touched a lot of people, including myself.

I was taken to DL by my parents when I was very young. It was probably the only place that I saw both of my parents relax and completely enjoy themselves. They got more enjoyment at seeing us kids have a good time more then anything. I think the only time I saw them hold hands was when they rode POTC and IASW which were two of their favorite rides.

My Dad died 15 years ago and my mother is now 81 years old and not really able to get around a park like she would want to. She refuses to sit in a wheelchair and be pushed around. They never got to go to Disneyland one more time like both of them wanted. I share all of my stories, movies and pictures with my mom and she completely lights up.

Disneyland has always been that place where I don't have to worry about health problems, financial woes, economy trouble, work issues or anything else. I literally forget everything and act like I'm 10 years old again for 4 days.

My partner and I buy Mickey Ears with our names on them as the first thing we do entering the park. Even before we have our coffee. :) The minute those ears go on, it's time to relax and forget, without a care in the world.

The flight home is always so meloncholy.......

04-18-2009, 10:35 AM
Your stories really touch me Alex, I never knew it could mean that much, but after reading that I realize that there's probably a lot of people with a similar story or a similar feeling.

And you definitely need a reward or something for giving that kid 20 dollars, that was so nice! It's your type who makes Disney "The Happiest Place on Earth" Keep it up! :)

04-18-2009, 11:20 PM
Great stories, like everyone else said. And welcome to the amazing community of the DLR Disboards! :)

04-19-2009, 12:01 AM
I can't believe I've been passing this thread over. I opened this thread a few days ago and carelessly skimmed over the posts, not taking in the full meaning of the subject. Just now, I decided to read your story word for word, and I am so touched at your sharing. Your rough childhood has shown me how much I took for granted my own childhood.

My mother passed away as well, but at a young age when I was 9. To this day, I regret having treated her the way I did. I would throw silly irrational temper tantrums and drive her to the point of tears. I will never forgive myself for doing so. When I was entering 4th grade, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but it was caught in its late stages. My father spent tens of thousands of dollars on treatment and care, and even flew my mom down to Mexico to find treatment. Unfortunately, she passed in December of '99. That Christmas, my father, sister, and I took a trip, just the three of us, to DL. It was the first family trip we had ever had without my mom. It was bittersweet. DL brought magic into our family, and even though my mom wasn't there to celebrate with us, Walt helped us move on as a family. I remember when I was 5 holding her hand as we walked down Main Street USA; this is a memory I will cherish for a long time.

Thanks so much for starting this thread, Alex. And sorry for taking over with my own sob story! I've really taken things into perspective and now know not to take things for granted. But this is extraordinary seeing how we all have our own memories to share, in a way, we are all really connected.

04-19-2009, 02:22 PM
Oh, Sherwin, now you made me cry. :grouphug: I am so sorry to hear about your Mother. It is so painful to lose your parents, you are never ready for them to be gone. But please, do not beat yourself up about throwing tantrums and doing kidstuff. You were a child. As a mother (and grandmother) I can assure you, your Mother loved you like crazy even when you were being difficult. It's just how Mothers are. :lovestruc