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I could name a million gifts that have been incredibly significant to me: an electronic device given by my parents, a book given by my friends, or even a pair of old ballet shoes from my good cousin. However, the gift that has had the most resonance to me and on my childhood memories was my trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California when I was seven years old. Have you ever been to Disneyland? Yes, the “happiest place on Earth,” with its magical castles, princesses in cotton candy frills, and electric-light parades? Oh and don’t forget their millions of exhilarating rides! Well, that trip was not so significant because of the number of rides I went on or how many princess autographs I collected, but because of the sacrifices my family spent just for me to be there.
Most people have been to Disneyland and have probably gone there before reaching the age of six. Some kids I know have even ventured to the dazzling place when they were four or five. It was different in my case. When I was a child, I didn’t have the same access to Disneyland as other children. Why? Well I did not live near any Disney park, and I did not even live in America. Instead, I was “trapped,” as my five-year-old self thought, amid the lush islands of the Philippines. More specifically, I dwelled in the smoke-filled, traffic-jammed capital of the Philippines: Manila. In my little “world” the magic of Disney wasn’t present except through toys or the Television screen. Even at this, I was infatuated with Disney films and princesses, especially Ariel from “The Little Mermaid”. These princesses, fairies, and sword-fighting princes heightened my expectations of “The Happiest Place on Earth”. However, as the years went by, I was only able to watch Disneyland from afar, through movies and online videos; sometimes, if I was lucky, I would dream I was there and that I was meeting Aurora or Ariel. I knew that my dream of going to the exquisite theme park was far from reality. My family was bound to the Philippines and has been trying for more than a couple years to acquire a Visa, just to venture (maybe even as tourists) to America. But, my little heart held a shard of hope that we would soon have a Visa and that as soon as we landed in America, I would be able to visit the magical park.
Soon, my wish came true! After trying for more than five times (my mom having a total of thirteen trials and I having seven tries) to acquire a Visa, we were approved as tourists and were to venture by plane on March the Third, 2010. I was seven and a half years old. During the trip to the Manila International Airport, my heart pounded in my chest and thoughts swirled around me. Is it really true? Am I truly going to America? Does this mean that I will be able to go to Disneyland? As we boarded the plane my heart pounded faster and faster, almost beating out of my chest; and my thoughts were bunched up as a hurricane, its powerful “breath” imprisoned in my own mind. It got worse as we sat in our designated seats and buckled our seat belts. For almost the whole sixteen-hour flight, my brain would race back to the series of questions I had as I drove to the Manila Airport. Other than that, I would be sleeping. Even at that, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was actually dreaming of the theme park itself! Finally, our plane began its descent into the famous Los Angeles city, and for a moment my mind was taken off the Disney trance. It was night and millions, maybe even billions of city lights were aglow; electric flashes were seen and I soon identified them as the cars blazing along the skyway (the Filipino term for freeway). After we got out of the plane and traveled to my aunt’s town house, I suddenly remembered Disney and began to ask my mother questions. The answers to them almost left me with no hope.
The first question about the theme park I asked my mother was, “Can we go to Disneyland tomorrow?” The reply came at a stern “No” and a series of reasons to why we couldn’t go, which included several words on the money it took to go to such a place. At first I was devastated. However, I reasoned to myself that it was only the first day and that maybe we could go this week or next. But each time I would ask my mom or aunt on the possibility of going to Disneyland, I would receive the same answer and the same series of reasons that my mom gave to me the first time I tried asking. After continuing the fiasco for several weeks (I might have even asked for a month or two), I gave up and resolved that I would never be able to step foot in the wonder world of princesses, fairies, and sword-fighting princes. What came next was a great shock to me, and I still cannot believe that it even occurred. I did not know that my family was actually planning a great visit to Disneyland during the summer, and they were all finding ways to be able to go to the park. In fact, they were planning to bring along some of my cousins and friends. So after a number of months, during what I believe was the second or third week of June or July, they surprised me by saying that we were going to Disneyland next week! The next couple of days were filled with joy and excitement, and after the seemingly long wait, I was able to finally step foot in Disneyland. What made it the best surprise gift was that my family worked hard to get there and experience “the happiest place on earth” alongside me.
In conclusion, the trip that my family offered me was one of the best gifts in my whole life; and though my desires to go as soon as possible did not go as planned, they sacrificed their time and money to make my first American Disneyland trip worth the wait. Though other children are blessed and were/are able to go to Disneyland at an earlier age and probably more often, I believe that my experience is not even half of what I expected from movies and online videos. Though I was not able to meet Ariel or Aurora, I was able to be true to myself and accept what my family had to offer. A gift really makes a difference when you know that the person who contributed to that gift worked hard to give it to you. As Sarah Dessen wrote, “The Best gifts come from the heart, not the store.”
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