My favorite Christmas was in 1988 when I was six.
In my family we always opened gifts the night before Christmas on Christmas Eve. Usually we were in Brookfield, Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee at my Dad’s parent’s house. This year however, my grandparents came down by us in Madison, Wisconsin.
My Grandma Mary Jean was sitting on the couch scratching my dog skipper’s head. He pushed his nose into her for more attention. Mom was standing close to our upright player piano that was against the wall. It was next to my fairly large dollhouse which had taken over the corner. My sisters and I were all sitting on the brown carpeted floor between unwrapped gifts and crinkled wrapping paper. Someone had moved the coffee table out of the way. My Dad had left the room for one last “something” and we were all waiting with anticipation. My Grandpa was behind us by the fireplace filming the scene with my Dad’s new camcorder. My Dad had just told Grandpa he didn’t have to hold the record button down the whole time when he’d mentioned his finger was getting tired.
Dad stepped down the one step there was into our family room with a large, hard covered army green suitcase beside him. He set it down flat, right in the middle of the floor in front of us. We giggled with excitement and curiosity. What was inside?
Scrambling to open the two metal latches to the suitcase, we finally got it to pop open. Inside were five cotton t-shirts in various sizes and colors. The smallest was a light pink color with Micky Mouse on it, and it looked like just my size! I snatched it out of the suitcase and held it up to my flat little chest. Yup this had to be mine! One of my sister’s started to grab something else out that looked like paper tickets, and my eyes got BIG! They just started to read aloud what was on the tickets when I screamed: “We’re going to Disney World!”
I rolled backwards almost doing a somersault into our artificial Christmas tree that was behind me. The ornaments jingled. I lay on my back and shook my legs up in the air wildly with excitement. I screamed louder again: “We’re going to Disney World!”
Skipper started to bark and my sisters jumped up and down now screaming too. Sarah was repeating “party, party, we’re gonna party!”
As I rolled back my plaid wool skirt flipped up so my tights, underwear showing through, started to show. My grandpa was still filming, the camera on me, when my Dad called over: “cover your po po.” I pushed my skirt back down and ran up to the camcorder lens so close my eyelashes touched the glass. I grinned right into the camera and then backed up and tapped the lens. I said “We’re going to Disney World!”
“Yes,” he said. “And we’re watching skipper.”
My first trip to Disney World was in 1988/1989
The nostalgic inspiration for this memory is from a hodgepodge of a few trinkets I found all tucked inside of a plastic 1988 Enjoy Coca Cola Classic cup. At first glance, it may look like I just emptied my kitchen junk drawer. Except to me, it’s a time capsule. These are small things I treasured as a little girl. I kept each item to remember when my parents took our family to Disney World in Orlando, Florida over our winter break in 1988. We stayed through New Years Eve 1989.
1987 Disney Dollar
There’s a one dollar Disney Dollar that has 1987 on it. I’ve heard they’re good for life! Here’s a close up below.
Cocoa Beach, Florida seashell
I also saved a very ordinary grey sea shell. I picked this up on Cocoa Beach in Florida. It was the first time I had seen the ocean. I remember it was a cloudy day, not very warm. We did touch the water with maybe one toe, but it was freezing. We didn’t get to swim or build a sandcastle like I had hoped to. I was a bit disappointed I remember. I did find this one shell though. Here’s a picture of my parents and I that day.
My Dad had hoped we’d have a whole day at the beach, but that didn’t happen. Here’s why…
Our not so “magical” start flying to Orlando, Florida
Our flight plans had been delayed coming out of Madison, Wisconsin and we tried to drive to the Milwaukee airport and catch a different flight instead, but that didn’t work either. Our luggage actually somehow got on a different flight too and made it’s way to Florida without us!
I remember standing in my Grandma’s kitchen in Milwaukee that was right next to the airport. This was my mom’s mom. We were trying to figure out our next move. My Dad was videoing us this time, and I made plane noises with my arms out pretending to fly around the kitchen. My sister Sarah explained what was going on to the camera like she was narrating a documentary.
Somehow we ended up in Detroit for a night and had to wear our same clothes to bed. Long story short, we missed a longer day at the beach my dad had planned. This little sea shell reminds me of all that. The grey color, perhaps symbolic now of the unfortunate late start we got on our trip.
Here’s my Dad with his camera.
Walt Disney World Mickey Mouse Ears Balloon
Okay, the dark, navy blue deflated balloon needs some explaining too. Here’s a picture of the balloon next to my sea shell. Sad little pair.
This balloon was half deflated already when we spotted it on our hotel balcony. This particular hotel opened up to the inside of a beautifully enclosed atrium. There was a huge round fountain in the middle of the ground level floor you could throw pennies in. Tropical plants surrounded it and the sound of splashing water echoed upwards. I loved watching the exposed glass elevator carry guests up and down next to it.
This balloon must have floated up from a room below and got stuck. We couldn’t see anyone reaching for it. I had seen similar balloons at the Magic Kingdom park, but my parents didn’t really buy us extras like that. I sorta knew not to ask I guess. They might have said it would probably be hard to carry around or take on the plane home. But either way, it was right there and I wanted it! I wanted it bad! A free, lonely balloon that needed a hand to hold it!
Somehow we grabbed the balloon. I kept it, and here it lies.
It’s almost falling apart, but I can still see Mickey just fine. This balloon reminds me how lucky we were to be able to afford such a trip. My parents saved diligently I believe and picked and chose what we could get along the way to make it work for us. It also captures a simple joy I latched on to as a little girl. I don’t know what gets more simple than a balloon. Why is that? I’m not sure. Maybe because we know it won’t last forever. But when you’re a kid, the happiness something can bring you in the moment makes you forget all that.
Walt Disney World Donald Duck Pin
The Donald Duck pin doesn’t bring back any specific memories related to it. My Dad could do the voice though. He’s always been good at impressions. He also had a Donald Duck wind up toy he used to keep in his bathroom drawer I think. I recently visited my parents and found it in the guest bathroom!
I do remember he was so excited that he booked us a surprise breakfast on the last day of our trip. It was with Mickey Mouse and all the other characters. I got sick though, and wasn’t able to go. My mom stayed back with me at the hotel while my sisters got to go. This might have been given to me by my Dad after they went to that breakfast.
How I moved one of the longest Disney World lines ahead in a jiffy!
So, for most of the trip I felt fine. My favorite attractions were It’s a Small World, The Enchanted Tiki Bird Room, and Swiss Family Robinson!
But somehow I got a flu bug or something and it wasn’t good.
I was sitting in a stroller my parents decided to get for me after I started not feeling well. I was six, so my legs were slightly too long for it. We were standing in a long line for something and I was munching on cheese gold fish crackers. All of a sudden, a fountain of whatever I just drank with it flew over the poor park goers in front of us!! It was like the fountain from our hotel atrium just shot up to the 18th floor.
Everyone in line moved forward quickly as a strange, gasping growl came over the crowd. My sisters and parents stood with wide eyes as we all processed what just took place. We gracefully stepped out of line to regroup. I was so sorry, embarrassed and miserable.
To this day, I don’t care for gold fish crackers either. I’m feeling a little like Chunk in The Goonies confessing that story.
1988 Enjoy Coca Cola Classic Plastic souvenir cup
Guess the cup was just a souvenir cup with a soda pop we bought. But we rarely had soda growing up, so it was a real treat to get one. Look at the size though! How small compared to most you see nowadays. It’s probably from Epcot because of how the characters are dressed. We went there in addition to the Magic Kingdom. Can’t remember the purple dragon’s name. (Leave me a comment if you remember)
Here’s a few pictures from Epcot. If you’re viewing these looking on a phone, turn it sideways for a closer look.
I’ve been back to Disney World twice. Once when I was ten, and once as an adult with my twin nephews when they were about how old I was when I first went. But nothing compares to the excitement of the first time. How I found out we were going made the Christmas of 1988 my all time favorite. Seeing a place that truly is so magical and a world of its own has stayed in my memory for 30 years. I love Disney World!
In fact, I have a favorite Walt Disney quote on my subscribe page because I’ve been so inspired by Disney my whole life.
Do you have a favorite Christmas? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.