My project manager, Vince, is worried about me.
Of course, all good managers worry about the health and happiness of those who they manage, and make no mistake about it: Vince is a good manager. But in his wide eyes and furrowed brow I can see today the unmistakable concern of a manager who thinks a member of his staff might be sort of — you know — nuts.
It started earlier today. Vince knew I was taking some time off this week, so he naturally asked if I had plans. When I told him I was going to Disneyland with eight of my grandchildren, ages 2 to 14, he looked aghast. When I told him how much I was looking forward to it, well, that’s the point at which he clearly began to question my sanity.
I don’t think it’s because Vince has anything against Disneyland, specifically. It is, after all, “the happiest place on earth” (or is it “the place where dreams come true?” It’s one or the other — or maybe both). For some reason, however, the thought of driving in crowded cars to California just so we can wander around the Magic Kingdom with a gaggle of grandchildren doesn’t sound especially happy — or dreamy — to him.
I get that. I totally do. A couple of days of 45-minute lines, $10 hamburgers and goofy hats (including Goofy hats) that you will never, ever wear again may not be everyone’s idea of a good time — with or without a group of young people simultaneously experiencing the Terrible Twos, kindergarten, junior high and the hormonal surge of adolescence. But I’m not going to lie to you: if Johnny Depp himself was going to be on hand to escort us through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, I couldn’t be more excited.
And not because we’re going to Disneyland, but because we’re going together.
Which is not to say that Disneyland isn’t a factor in the excitement I am feeling. The Magic Kingdom was born the same year I was, and threads of the Wonderful World of Disney are meticulously interwoven into the fabric of my life. My first crush was a Mouseketeer named Annette. My first hero was Davy Crockett, as portrayed by Fess Parker in the 1950s Disney miniseries. And my first public regurgitation was on the Mad Tea Party teacups.
The orange one, as I recall.
It should come as no surprise, then, that there is a good deal of Disney-centrism in the next two generations of Walkers. For example, my daughter, Andrea, and her husband, Adam, were in “Finding Nemo: The Musical” at Walt Disney World in Florida (Andrea played Dory — I consider her my fish princess).
My daughter-in-law, Jen, is a walking, talking, singing Wikipedia of Disney knowledge, and she looks exactly like what I think Cinderella would look like in her 30s. And my grandchildren have collectively watched the latest Disney animated feature, “Frozen,” so many times they’re beginning to finish each other’s sandwiches.
If you haven’t seen “Frozen” five or six times you probably don’t get that.
And that’s OK. You can let it go.
For me, however, this Disneyland weekend isn’t really about Disney. It’s about family and being together. And sharing something we all enjoy. We’re making memories, and that could happen anywhere — as long as we are together.
Of course, there’s something special about watching my grandchildren enjoy the same things I enjoyed when I was their age, although I will probably try to steer them away from that orange teacup.
But that could just as easily happen in the mountains, the desert, the community park or the family farm, wherever families gather to make memories together.
Such traditions of togetherness become an important part of the family’s shared identity, a cyclical reminder of who we are — individually and collectively — and a meaningful element of what another great Disney film “The Lion King” referred to geometrically as “the circle of life.”
And there’s nothing “nuts” about that.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr