I’m aware that Disney World doesn’t really fit in to the “favorite find” category. I mean, it’s not like I discovered it – nor is it something (like a vase or a cherry pitter) that you can buy or bake or share.

But it is Friday and here I am (although sadly, leaving soon). This year I gave more thought than ever to why I love this trip – and this place – so much. Truthfully, I was a total Disney snob for most of my adult life. I sneered at people who took precious vacation time and spent it there, and pretty much dismissed it as a tacky and overpriced amusement park.

Yet it has actually become a place that I’ve come to associate with many poignant times in my life.

A few weeks after my marriage ended, my parents offered to take the kids and me on a trip to Disney World. And although I was pretty much shell-shocked and emotionally wasted at the time, I knew that I needed to say yes – that I could (and SHOULD) do this. Not just for me, but for my sweet children, who had been blindsided as much as I by the events of the past year.

So two months later I found myself traveling, for the first time as a single mother, to Orlando – and I will never forget how I felt when I walked onto Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. It was clean. And friendly. And happy. It was – well, magical. And I think that it was the timing of the trip as much as the skill with which Disney does what they do that completely re-shaped my feelings about the place. Rather than scoffing at the corniness of it all, I was grateful for a place where everyone smiled and greeted me and the children with such genuine warmth and kindness. No longer just a cheesy theme park, Disney came to mean so much to me that week. I felt like it actually embraced the 3 of us with the promise of a better day. And for the first time in months I smiled, relaxed and thought that I – we – were going to be okay.

Yes, Disney did all of that.

Ironically, it was also Disney World where I returned 3 1/2 years later – again with the children but now newly re-married. As I retraced my steps from those few years earlier, I couldn’t help but note the irony. Here I was again – with a new husband, a new home – and indeed, a better day.

Since that time I have experienced several salient moments in Disney World.

It was where, from the perch of a lounge chair while watching my children swim in a ridiculously beautiful pool, I felt myself coming out of a short but scary bout of depression.

It was where I decided to stop stressing and worrying so much and try to relax and enjoy my new and unexpected pregnancy.

It was where I looked at Chelsea – and she looked at me – in the same moment that we both realized that in a few weeks she would be leaving home for the very first time.

And it was where I  allowed myself to fully accept that I had somehow managed to find and marry a man, who – although flawed and imperfect as the rest of us – would never hurt me, lie to me, or disrespect me in any way. Ever.

Of course, being Disney World, it has also been the place where less lofty events occur too:

I eat too much bacon and take in too much sun.

I go down water slides (but just the straight ones – no curves).

I nap.

I play mini-golf.

I have cotton candy for lunch at least once.

And I indulge, embrace and revel in this wonderful, privileged life I get to live – and try to bring a little “magic” home with me.

I will resume with a more traditional “favorite” next week. This one was for me, and for every one of you who has a special place that takes you out of the realm of your day to day reality – (even if it’s just for a few days out of the year).

I hope you do.

Have a happy – and magical – Friday.

Wondering what favor-”ette” means? Click here!

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