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  • Writer's pictureDonna Norman Carbone

Milestones: Disney & Writing

At the beginning of a life or at the beginning of a process, we never know the outcome. We sometimes imagine the possibilities. We take steps one at a time and are often surprised by where we end up. How the reality meets the dream is something we couldn’t have predicted.

For me, this has been a year of milestones–including touch points I couldn’t have known.

This past week, I visited Disney World for the twelfth time with my family–my grown family of five plus each of my two son’s girlfriends–for the 50th Anniversary celebration. It's a dream world, really--a place for imagining all that is possible.

For my first visit to Disney World, then only the Magic Kingdom, I was seven years old and my sister was five. We went with my aunt and uncle, my cousin, and my grandmother. The park had just had its grand opening, but my parents couldn’t afford the trip. I have a spotty recollection of Main Street, bright lights and a little stuffed lion I clung onto on the train ride home.

The next time I visited, I was in seventh grade and went with my immediate family, which now included a brother, and two of our cousins. We scrunched up in my parents' station wagon, all seven of us. I recall stopping for fresh-squeezed orange juice at the welcome center. To the park, we wore matching shirts and took in all The Magic Kingdom had to offer. I felt like a big shot because I’d been there before and could show my family around.

Just prior to my wedding, my mother insisted our immediate family go for one last trip before the family began expanding. Only, by then my parents had divorced and the family now included my step-dad and step-sister. Epcot had opened a few years before, so we were excited to see the futuristic world with innovative technology like robots that I, for one, had never considered.

Fast forward a few years and our first son is born. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to seeing the world through your own children’s eyes. As my husband and I grew our family, our visits to Disney World multiplied as we vacationed there roughly every other or every three years throughout a span of about eighteen years. As my children grew, so did the world of Disney, adding Hollywood Studios (which went through three name changes) and Animal Kingdom.

We experienced it all. The wide-eyed amazement as our children spied their favorite characters, getting hugs and autographs from them. Character dining and exploring both new and familiar rides like It’s a Small World and how that song gets stuck in your head for days after you’ve ridden it. Watching parades with drippy ice cream cones and sticky cotton candy. Eating around the world and so many delicious culinary experiences. Sleepy kids in strollers under the explosion of fireworks in the sky. Maneuvering the many modes of transportation from resorts, that got grander with each visit, and the growing parks, that became more congested with each trip. The whining and the wanting and the wishing that came with equal conviction.

We found ourselves there for the 25th anniversary, and I remember thinking what a milestone it had been for me to see Disney World through the changing perspectives I had over the years. That year was a true moment of epiphany for me, piecing together the memories, separate and different, into a cohesive reflection.

Similarly, visiting this year for Disney’s 50th, it seems that I’m coming full circle. Now, I’m the mom wanting to go with my own children before each of their families expand. One last time.

Parallel to the milestones I’ve experienced at Disney World over the years have been my own milestones as a writer. I still pinch myself to be sure it’s real. I started writing as a solitary act, a hobby I enjoyed doing, until I started to see it as more. The culminations of my writings over many many years led me to the dream of becoming a published author. I saw it as both possible and impossible, the way one does when a goal seems lofty or just out of reach.

Now that publication is a reality for me, I look back at the milestones–that are still presenting themselves–as a cohesive reflection, but one that isn’t fully shaped.

I had the most interesting conversation with a woman, an artist, I met in Disney this past week. We shared that we are both creative types (her as painter and me as a writer). We got on the subject of knowing versus understanding, something we right-brained people wonder about.

Knowing is static. It’s the collection of facts. Understanding is fluid, active; it morphs with our ever-changing perspective. I know the milestones I’ve reached both in my life and in my writing, I’m still seeking to understand the many ways they make meaning.


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