Today is my mother’s birthday. I am using today’s post to honor this special woman whom I have treasured all my life. She gave me many gifts, including my heart for Disney.
My mother is a wonderful woman. The eldest of ten children, her focus has always been on family — taking care of us all. She has nurtured us, taught us right from wrong, supported us throughout every step of our lives and provided us with unconditional love. She taught us how much God loves us and showed us through her loving example how to take care of others in honor of all the gifts we’ve been given. For me, personally, she gave me one more very important gift — my mother is the person who introduced me to a great joy in my life, Walt Disney World.
Growing up I had one role model on television, Mary Tyler Moore. She was one of the first women on tv to be portrayed as an independent person, highly efficient with the highest level of integrity. She was respected, appreciated and valued in the office. In a time when many of my friends’ mothers didn’t work outside the home, my mother was working her rear off everyday and working up the ladder. She was well-respected and I was extremely proud of her. Her work ethic was the strongest example in my life. I believe that shaped my work ethic more than anything else.
My mom took me on my first two visits to Walt Disney World when I was a teenager. Those visits planted the seed of my lifelong love affair with Walt Disney World.
I was 15 when I visited for the first time. My mom and her boyfriend of many years, Louis, took my older sister and me to that magical place. We stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and I remember the awe I felt staying at a beautiful resort that had a monorail running right through it. There was only one park back then, the Magic Kingdom. I still remember running to Space Mountain at rope drop and spending hours at River Country. She loved seeing us enjoying that magical place.
My second visit was a couple of years later. My sister could not go, so I was able to take a friend who had never been. It was 1982 but still several months before the grand opening of EPCOT. We spent every waking moment at Magic Kingdom and at River Country. I remember the freedom of being able to go freely from the park to the resort and how much fun it was.
Those first visits were undoubtedly the catalyst for what would become a very important facet of my life. They likely lead to my studies of, and fascination with, Walt Disney; to my numerous family trips with my children and now with my grandchildren.
At 50 years old, my mom was sent to the US Customs and Border Protection Academy in Glynco, Georgia for Inspector certification. Those 13 weeks were the longest of her life. She hated being away from her daughters and she missed us terribly. There were a couple of long weekends that Louis flew up to pick up mom and take her to Walt Disney World for the weekends. It lifted her spirits! I totally understand that!
For many years, my mom traveled with my family to Walt Disney World after I had children of my own. Watching her having fun with my children, listening to all the laughter and seeing all the hugs and snuggles meant so very much to me. She is unable to travel with us now and it definitely adds a melancholy tone to our trips because we all loved having her with us. She still loves hearing about all of our fun when we return though. I still tell her it is all because of her.
Our Disney history undoubtedly led me on the path of having the best job in the world. I still can’t believe that I am able to spend my time helping others to find that same joy during visits with their own families. Walt may have said “It all started with a mouse” but in my life it all started with my mom. I am so grateful for that.
Today, I honor this special lady for whom I am so thankful. She is the best mom in the world. I couldn’t be more proud of, nor more grateful to, the person who has brought SO much joy into my life in SO many ways. My mom is beautiful, inside and out. She turns 84 and I thank God for every day that I get the pleasure of seeing her smiling face.
I love you, Momma — always have, always will!