What’s Disney got on that Pile of Leaves

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. The economy was good. And we were spoiled.

By “we,” I mean me, my sister, my cousins, my neighbors, friends, schoolmates…. Looking back, it seemed that white middle class kids of the 80s had little wants. We had records and walkmans and pogoballs. We had purple and pink Huffys and LA Gear high tops. We had little plastic charm bracelets. At Christmas, the present opening went on for hours. Nintendos. Game Boys.

My mother loved to travel. My dad was dragged along. They were both teachers, so we all had summers off and every summer we would travel somewhere. Deep into the North Maine Woods to camp. Rented beach houses. A road trip to the Sesame Place amusement park.

My parents were not rich by any means. But, the economy was good, they lived modestly, and they both worked, so we lived a pretty nice life.

The first time we went to a Disney Park, I was nine and my sister was four. It was the first time I’d ever been on a plane and it was, indeed, the trip of a lifetime. But I didn’t, at the time, understand why my parents would have waited until I was almost a decade old to embrace that experience. Many of my friends and classmates had already been a couple of times by the time I went. What took our family so long?

Flash forward to 2014. The economy is trying to pull itself out of the rubble of the Great Recession. Families are stressed and Mommy Wars are front and center. Most middle class families need a dual income in order to more or less scrape by. Nevertheless, the whispered conversation on the sidelines of soccer games, Frozen birthday parties and Moms’ Nights Out is… DISNEY: who’s going, where are they staying and what parks are they doing when they get there? Cruise? Resort? Time Share??? It seems the dream of every child of the 80s is to provide their own children with the trip of a lifetime: to DISNEY.

Why wouldn’t they? Disney is the place where dreams come true! It’s a happy, magical place that transports you to childhood, despite your age. Really. It’s awesome.

But I haven’t had that Disney conversation yet. At times I’ve been tempted. When Rocketman was 2 and I was pregnant with Bubba a family friend invited us to Florida and we briefly considered for one moment going and squeezing in a Disney trip, but I was quickly talked down by my colleagues who had recently gone and couldn’t imagine the experience pregnant and with a toddler.

And, really, that’s the main reason why I’m in no rush. Rocketman is 5, but Bubba is only 2. And, frankly, we brought them to a small nearby theme park a couple of weeks ago that is geared for young children and while Rocketman was in awe of each and every ride and feature, Bubba cry/whined the entire. Time. We. Were. There. For no apparent reason…

So, no, I am not willing to spend money I don’t actually have to listen to THAT again.

But, really, what I think I am holding out for is this:

To my kids, 5 and 2, childhood is magical. With Rocketman in the lead, they embrace every seemingly mundane event with enthusiasm, awe and wonder. Throwing rocks in the water. ( “Look Mom! i found a stone! Can we bring it back to the brook and throw it in???”) Seeing a rainbow appear after a storm. (“Mom, someday can we try to find the end of the rainbow? I think there is supposed to be gold there.”) Storm drains. (“Can we stop and look in the drain?! Look! There’s water!!!) These are the things that greatly amuse my children. And I, in turn, am greatly amused.

Halloween was a biggie. The biggest it has ever been, hands down. So big, that the day Hubs got a new car (for the first time in TWELVE years), Rocketman’s announcement to his pre-K teacher the next day was, “Guess what we got yesterday?? My Halloween costume!!! Oh, and Daddy got a new car, too.” We decorated everything that could be decorated, visited every pumpkin patch in the area, and went trick or treating countless times for countless events. And Rocketman (and in turn Bubba) was more excited about every single piece of it than I’ve ever seen him before. And that is saying A LOT!

So, I was a bit concerned when November 1st rolled around and all the “spooky stuff” needed to be taken down. Resilient Rocketman didn’t blink an eye. He woke up, ran to my room and announced, “Mom! Do you know what today is?? It’s the day after Halloween! That means the leaves have fallen off the trees! And THAT means Dad is going to rake them all up into a HUGE pile and let us JUMP IN THEM!!!!”

So, this weekend, Rockman’s dreams came true. One huge leaf pile, two excited boys and hours upon hours of hooting, hollering, jumping, rolling, and diving. They had more fun than I have seen them have with the giant blow up waterslide we station in the backyard in the summer, the jumpy houses at friends’ birthday parties and the damn amusement park that Bubba screamed through.

I love that they are still embracing all of those “little things” that adults are too jaded to embrace. Kids become jaded too, at some point. Maybe they will too. There is no more “stop and smell the flowers” anymore. Despite the economy, despite the lessons that might have been learned, it’s still, “bigger is better” and “more is more” and let me post it on every form of social media so that you can want one too. And I know that, eventually, they will not be immune.

But in the meantime, I treasure these moments. “Mommy, it has always been my dream to go underneath a leaf pile. And now my dream has finally come true.”

That dream cost us a $10 rake and some very minor man power.

But, if we were to jump in with the Disney thing right now, would the leaf pile still hold such value? Dining with Mickey might make the backyard picnic my kids cheered about today seem a little lame. Dancing with Cinderella may outshine dancing to the Wiggles DVD and ending up in peels of laughter. Dropping a rock into a storm drain may not seem like so much fun once they’ve ridden in a log down a mountain of water.

I look forward to the day when my kids are old enough to appreciate all that Disney has to offer (and also the day where I’m not working half time and can afford all that), but I cherish the fact that my kids are, today at 5 and 2, leading the life that every adult dreams of. One where every day is filled with magic and wonder and adventures await each season in your own backyard.

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