Growing up Poor and Disney

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Growing up, my mother gave us everything she could, but she wasn’t rich. We were definitely poor although she did her best to not let us know.

March break to me meant reading, playing video games, and maybe going to the movies. Summer vacation was much the same but with biking, yard sales, and maybe a trip to Ottawa. The trip to Ottawa was an 8 hour drive and us staying with family.

I remember the first time someone I know went to Disney. I was in first or second grade and everyone thought it was awesome. As I grew older I noticed that only the richer families took their kids to Disney. Then I started seeing Disney World on television. The characters in Full House, Roseanne, Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and many more. It re-enforced to me that only the wealthy went to Disney.

Don’t get me wrong. There are ways to do Disney on a budget but for a kid of a poor single mom in Northern Ontario, it seemed impossible. I went for the first time with my in-laws when I was 28.

My first time at Disney meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too.

In the decade since, we’ve gone to Disney World 3 more times and Paris Disney.

Even during my most recent trip I still got the excitement of being able to do something that young me would never believe I could do. There’s a thrill to getting to experience everything.

Walking around Disney and doing all the activities, eating the food, and meeting the characters is amazing and cheesy. Everything is shiny and cool (except the dinosaur section in Animal Kingdom… yikes) and it all feels like an accomplishment. There’s this feeling of having somehow snuck into an exclusive club where I’m not supposed to be.

Going with my in-laws was great, but getting to bring my children was amazing. It’s ridiculous and silly but being able to give them an experience that I couldn’t have makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

However, and this is a topic for a future post, bringing my children to Disney wasn’t about them, it was about and for me. The experience of going to Disney at 7 months isn’t something either kid will remember, and I’m fairly certain that my 3 year old’s memories will fade too.

There are experiences that as a kid I romanticized as “rich people” things. Some were disappointing (looking at you caviar and taking a plane) but Disney wasn’t. Maybe because I built up the vague notion but didn’t really know any details, maybe it was the excitement and childlike wonder on my wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law’s faces.

Whatever the reason, it was magical to be able to go to Disney after growing up thinking I couldn’t.

Later Days,

Éric