Ever want someone to love something as much as you do? To feel that feeling you feel when you feel allllllll the feeeeeelllls?

Ok that sounded creepier than I meant. Let me try again.

I had the privilege of taking my Goddaughter to Disneyland for her 1st ever visit. I wasn’t sure if she liked anything Disney past “childhood nostalgia” when I began planning our trip, I just knew that in times of crisis, or hurt, or pain, or in this case…the death of her Nana, my Aunt…Disney is my family’s escape.

It helps us leave reality behind and just focus on each other. Focus on fun. Focus on laughter and love and family.

But even bringing Birdy to Disneyland for that escape was going to pose a bit more of a challenge than I had realized. You see my childhood is wrapped up with her Mom, my Aunt, my other cousins, my Grandmother, my Mom and brother…in fact there isn’t a single part of Disney that I don’t associate with the family who was around as we watched every movie, as we got on every ride, as we were given special souvenirs by our grandmother. As my Aunt drove all of us kids down in her station wagon, my Mom passing out toys and gifts as drove over each state line.

In other words, this wasn’t just an ordinary trip to Disney*. It was a heavy trip. One that had to bring the magic, and bring it big.

Her first time. Both of us still grieving. Memories surrounding me to the point of near suffocation. Uncertainty of a different life awaiting her at home.

Was I just setting us up for disappointment? I mean, one trip to a theme park can’t solve all our problems. But it might make things feel a bit brighter for awhile.

You tell me:

Birdy & the family as she sees Sleeping Beauty’s castle via Main St. USA for the 1st time.

Her favorite movie is Peter Pan, guess what her favorite ride was?

Birdy meets Eeyore. Shortly after Tigger snuck up behind her and raspberries her in her in the ear. It was pretty darn funny. Sneaky Tigger!

I guess that means Splash Mountain is next, here’s where the teen is ready for the thrills

We forced her to endure the cheesy Jungle Cruise jokes, because you just must

We combined forces to try and beat Aaron at Buzz Lightyear’s ride…we lost, again.

Dingglehoppers eating dinner at Ariel’s Grotto

The night ended as it should, with warm churros and fireworks and classic Disney songs that gave you goosebumps while memories flooded back.

We had done nearly everything. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates- my Aunt’s favorite. Admittedly my sunglasses needed to stay on for that one for a bit, tears continuing to well in my eyes. And even her favorite, Peter Pan, was ridden twice…

We slept soundly, snuggling newly bought Pooh & Piglets, Marie & Lady, even a special pin with Mickey marking my son’s first flight lesson was given a place of honor on the bedside table.

As everyone quickly drifted off to Neverland I was convinced reality was left behind, if just for a little while. Everyone seemed content. Full. Happy.

My suspicions confirmed in the morning. As we all begrudgingly packed and readied to leave I heard,

“Auntie Erin, can we just LIVE here? I feel like this is just where we should be, on a spiritual level.”

And I exhaled. Mission accomplished. Although something tells me I had a little help from above. But that’s why we go…it’s where magic happens, and healing begins.

Birdy not only found the second star to the right, she pulled it into her heart and will keep it there, always.

Besides, when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.

*Thank you Disneyland PR for media access to the parks for our family.