Over the last several years, I've learned quite a bit about myself while navigating the uncharted waters of uncle-hood. Perhaps the most glaring piece of wisdom I've obtained is the unsettling realization that I make terrible deals with my niece & nephew. Read: Paid $50 to skip a 90-minute line for the Haunted Mansion. Worst of all, I think these two are wise to my awful bartering skills and exploit it anytime they can. But, as the President-Elect will surely attest, there's positive spin to almost every lousy deal. In this case, one of these slippery negotiations with Old Sport led to a weekend at Disney among the best in recent memory.
The scene was a late summer evening in the Magic Kingdom. After a day filled with tiki birds, corny jokes on the Amazon, and a magical magnetized train, it was time for Old Sport and his parents to head for home. Meanwhile, his Aunt MJ and I had a date with the new Abracadabar at The Boardwalk before collapsing in our room at The Dolphin. Naturally, this news brought an unbearable bout of sadness from Old Sport, and one of those infamous negotiations...
"I want to stay at the Dolphin with you, Uncle Deej." (Mumbled while rubbing eyes for full effect)
"Tell you what Old Sport, I'll make a deal with you.. Between now and Christmas, Aunt MJ and I will bring you to Disney, just the two of us, and we'll stay at The Dolphin. Deal?"
"Deal." (Still mumbled while rubbing eyes for full effect)
Given that this kid has never once forgotten anything, especially the specific terms of any transaction with him, I booked our room the following morning with both great anticipation and a dash of terror.
Why the terror? Well, I've said it countless times before... Parents with kids visit a Disney with which I'm completely unfamiliar. And yet, here we were diving headfirst into that alternative universe.
On the flipside of that coin... Taking Old Sport to Disney and spoiling him rotten is something we've looked forward to since the day he booked a ticket with the stork. Based on the fact that we arrived to find him sitting on his luggage in his driveway, I'd say he shared the sentiment.
After a journey consisting of 109 questions - 42 "Can we ___'s" and 67 "Are we there yet's" - we arrived at The Dolphin, setting Old Sport's dancing feet into overdrive.
Next stop... Epcot, where Rapunzel was waiting at the gate to give him a proper welcome.
One of the pearls of wisdom my brother gave me before departing was to establish early on how many gift shops Old Sport would get to visit. The consequence for not doing so would likely be "Uncle Deej, can we go in that store?" followed by disappointment when the idea is shot down. While waiting in line for my afternoon iced coffee, Old Sport found a gaping loophole in the 2 store limit I'd previously imposed. The pin kiosk...
Next the dancing feet took us to Figment, where Old Sport proceeded to tell me everything that would happen next on the ride. I told you.. The kid doesn't forget anything.
After a brief stop at the magical fountain thingy's outside of Figment - Ok, Ok.. Journey Into Imagination - we were off to The Land for dinner at Garden Grill. The next hour or so for Old Sport went something like...
Bite of Food
Talk to Mickey
Bite of Food
Talk to Pluto... You get the picture.
This was only my 2nd time at Garden Grill and each was an unexpectedly good experience. I say unexpectedly because this place seems to fly under my radar, and given we had no issue getting a reservation with less than 30 days notice, perhaps I'm not alone. Good food, great characters, and a revolving restaurant which, as Old Sport put it, is also a ride.. A great combination.
Finally, it was time for the main event... Soarin'. As you can see, he was a little excited...
This has long been one of my favorite rides at Disney, but this time was different.. Seated in the far right section, with Old Sport to my left clutching my arm for support, I found myself watching his reactions for most of the ride as opposed to the movie. Then I did something I've never done before.. I looked around at all of the other people dangling from this giant Erector set. Wouldn't you know, their reactions were all the same as his. Whether they were young, old, or too-cool-for-school teenagers, their expressions were all the same: Sheer joy.
Yeah, I cried a bit.
So earlier when I mentioned that this trip brought a dash of fear, roughly 92.7% of that concern centered around one thing... The stroller. To put it mildly, crowds aren't exactly my thing. Toss in the need to push around a Mini-Cooper through World Showcase during Food & Wine and you've got the Deej-equivalent of a root canal. Thankfully, we all survived and made it to The Boardwalk at a perfect time...
The next morning, our itinerary consisted of just two events. The first is my own tradition unlike any other... The morning walk for coffee. I didn't think Old Sport would quite appreciate the majesty of these few minutes, but it seems he's got more of his uncle in him than I'd presumed.
Of the 42 "Can we____" questions we received on the way down, 29 of them were "Can we play putt-putt." I will be the first to admit that my brother and I have brainwashed Old Sport to love a few things that are dear to us. Anything related to the game of golf is, quite naturally, at the top of that list. And so, the final stop of our first solo adventure was the Winter Summerland putt putt...
As we made our way home, with Old Sport soundly asleep in the backseat, I found myself filled with both pride and a sobering realization. Four years have passed since I wrote the first Adventure with Uncle Deej on the day he was born. Time is absolutely zooming by, and I desperately want it to slow down. And yet, to paraphrase Hamilton, I know the only way to get to the next grand Adventure is for the world to keep on spinning.
Another of those terrible deals that I'll just have to accept.
Enjoy Your Stay