I am just at the end of ten days in Florida. It has been quite something. As regular readers will know, we recently lost my father in law and we were unsure until two days before as to whether we would make it to the US. However, as a family bonding exercise it has been amazing. We have queued, gasped, screamed and laughed as a family. We are very lucky.
And something which has struck me in every park, but particularly the Disney parks, has been the very strong sense of family shown by the American families. A Florida visit seems to be a rite of passage which is used at all stages of life and by all strata of society. The first visit in your stroller, the first visit when you are tall enough for all the rides, the spring break visit with your college friends, the visits as a parent yourself and finally the visit as a grandparent sitting on a motor scooter but still loving it. My husband and I do not have large immediate families. Complicated but not large. So huge group family holidays are somewhat out of our experience. We do have friends though who all return to the same holiday camps or hotels en mass year on year and they get a lot out of those times.
However, Florida and especially Disney offers something different. It offers a kind of history and heritage. People collect pin badges each year and attach then to their pass holders like badges of honour. They look forward to seeing the same rides which have been there since their own childhoods (I think some date from the ark!) whilst also expecting new and cutting edge stuff for their children. They want to do the "I remember when" thing with their grandchildren or the "remember when" with college buddies on reunion trips. And don't get me started on the tradition of matching family trip t-shirts! You can have them ready and waiting at your hotel... This was actually the most un British aspect of the whole thing. Drawing attention to yourselves!
All in all, this aspect of Orlando has been very educational as a family. Today, we were queuing for the biggest ride of the year - Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal. We queued for ninety minutes and we were closely followed by a three generation group who were pushing a very elderly guy in a wheelchair. Having read the warnings about the ride, we were privately concerned at his being included but hey, not our business. And do you know? He was wheeled right to the train, marvelling like the rest of us at the pre-ride settings. He was helped onto the ride and he had a blast just like we all did. He sat with his son and his grandchildren and he loved it. Another thing which we noticed actually - the provision for those with disabilities or need for assistance was outstanding. Every theme or water park had help for nearly every ride. It was very inclusive on all levels - age, ability, etc.
Not so much a post about family history as the importance of family today but I hope still worthy of consideration. If you do go to Orlando though, just beware of the road system... It will stretch marriages to divorce... a whole new chapter of family history in the making! We were on the verge of counselling after getting lost for the fourth day in row...