Happiest place on earth

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk, West Knox

My almost-5-year-old grandson, King, is Mickey Mouse’s best friend.

You may not want to spread that around because King told me in a hushed whisper, straight into my ear. “It’s a secret, Gigi,” he explained.

Just before a recent visit to see Gigi and Granddaddy, King learned from his parents that they were a few weeks away from a dream vacation. They were going to spend a day at Disney World, then embark for a Halloween on the High Seas Disney cruise.

This trip, months in secret planning, is so many parental holiday and birthday presents rolled into one that I’ve lost count. It was all Trey wanted from Kinsey for his upcoming December birthday. It’s all Kinsey wanted from Trey for her October birthday. And it was the “bonus” Kinsey put aside for months from her new entrepreneurial business that has had her working days and nights.

The plan was to wait until the day before to tell King. The parents had a secret word when they talked about it, calling it “the beast,” and King didn’t quite figure it out. He did, however, figure out that something was brewing, so they told him about a month before the big day.

King’s excitement level three weeks out when he was at Gigi’s house was already worth the sacrifice.

I know Disney has its distractors. I agree with many of them. As a home travel agent – a new venture I am exploring – I can attest to the expense of the “happiest place on earth.” I don’t know if it’s overpriced, because I haven’t been to Disney World in almost 30 years and have never been to Disneyland. I do know from friends that it’s hot, crowded with long lines and exhausting.

I now know from King that it is “awesome.”

The family is still enjoying the cruise part of the vacation, and I have no doubt how that part of the trip is progressing. Halloween is King’s favorite holiday. Mickey is his best friend. This part of the trip was made for him.

It was the Disney World aspect that I wasn’t sure would pan out. King is like his father. He analyzes things before he is ready for the experience. He is brave, but not gun-ho adventurous. The questions were many: Would he ride anything more daring than a carousel? Would he shy away from the characters once they were right there with him? How would he handle the heat, because he doesn’t like to get “sweaty?” Would he walk around for three hours and then want to go back to the hotel pool?

And I worried that the anticipation might overshadow the actual experience. He filled the weeks before the trip with countdowns and preparation. He had his parents queuing up YouTube videos on different rides and on the park itself. He play-acted seeing Mickey at his “house, where he really lives.” He even planned his wardrobe.

“I have to wear a Halloween shirt,” he told me. “That’s so Mickey will know it’s me, his best friend, King.”

While he was visiting here, King got a video call from Mickey on Gigi’s phone (there’s an app for that!) to tell him that he was excited about his upcoming visit. He stared at the phone during the call, then screamed and jumped up and down in excitement when it was over. He got another call on his mother’s phone just days before the trip.

His parents were afraid he would never get to sleep the night before their very early flight to Florida. “I have to get up in the middle of the night,” he told me. “We will get on the airplane when it’s still dark, but that’s okay because the airplane has lights.”

I got a picture at 7 p.m. of King fast asleep in a chair, having passed out while he helped his daddy pack. The next ones were from the hotel, and the most important one came the next day: King, giving a big thumbs-up to the Magic Kingdom.

I will see him soon and can’t wait to hear all the details. He talked on the phone just a few moments after the big Disney World day. “It was awesome, Gigi. Thumbs-up awesome.”

Of course it was. What’s better than a day with your best friend, even when 56,000 other best friends are sharing the experience? I guess that – like love – there’s always enough Mickey to go around.


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