Before entering the happiest place on Earth, I conducted a safety meeting behind our rented minivan.
As I applied sunscreen in defiance of the storm clouds overhead, I said, “If you get separated from the group, go find a Disney employee and give them my name. What’s my name?”
Luca and Elijah joylessly said, “Rick.”
“And what’s my last name?”
Luca said, “I don’t know.”
I then placed our happiness into the cable hands of the Walt Disney Corporation. I was in near tears as I saw the boys’ faces light up. A monorail! People paid to act cheerful! Designated smoking areas!
My brother and I dragged our kids to the rides we loved thirty years ago. I prayed they held the same magic for children who can call up millions of hours of entertainment at the swipe of a finger. Roughly twenty minutes into the day, Luca asked if we could go back to the hotel pool.
Oh! The Haunted Mansion! That ought to liven things up. Before the actual ride begins, there’s this pre-amble that involves standing in a little room with these spooky paintings. Our guide did a little rehearsed speech and then announced the doors are locked.
At this very moment, Luca had a flashback to when he was eighteen months old and Diana accidentally locked him in our car.
“I need to get out of here!” He yelled.
I whispered, “This isn’t scary. Don’t worry. This is totally fine.”
“I need to get out of here!” He yelled louder. His eyes had the look of someone who just discovered they had acute claustrophobia.
I found an exit and the cheerful, period dressed employee made a last ditch effort to keep us. “Don’t you like Scooby Doo?”
“I hate Scooby Doo!” Luca informed her. She looked like he flicked her nose.
Luca and I (and occasionally cousin Finn) then embarked on a tour of the least scary attractions in Disneyworld. Ooh, a park bench. A gift shop! Another gift shop! And my favorite attraction, the men’s room!
And yet, if you ask Luca about his favorite part of our Florida trip he’ll go on and on about how much he loved Disneyworld. It is the happiest place on Earth just so long as you never enter any enclosed spaces.