Monday, August 30, 2004

The Celebration Reputation

If you are here looking for the triplex/duplex/townhome photos in our ongoing lawncare battle, click here to see the latest additions or scroll down a couple of entries to read all about it. Otherwise, here's my latest rambling entry on life in Celebration:

A recent exchange on the Front Porch (Celebration's residents-only intranet, which features lively, and sometimes heated, discussion forums) reminded me of an aspect of living in our fair town that takes some getting used to: The Celebration Reputation.

"Just what is this reputation?" you might ask if you're not from Central Florida. Basically, when you are visiting one of the surrounding communities and mention that you are from Celebration, the stock answer is, "Oh," spoken in a tone that impossible to duplicate via the contraints of the written word.

"Oh" is such a simple two-letter word, but a person's tone can imbue it with so many shades of meaning. When spoken in regards to a person who has just confessed that they are from Celebration, it typically can be translated to, "Oh, so you're one of those high falutin' people from the Disney town."

I'm not sure how Celebration got that reputation. Even before I had visited, I thought of it as an upscale town, but in a generic sort of way. Granted, our property values have gone through the roof (I am amazed at our home's climb in value after only one year, so I can only imagine how many times over the prices have multiplied since 1995). We have our share of multi-million dollar mansions, but there are plenty of more modest dwellings, too.

The town was deliberately planned to place houses at both ends of the price spectrum within spitting distance of each other. For example, there are condos kitty corner from sprawling lakefront estate homes, and my triplex is right across the street from homes that sell for over twice the price.

Personally, I've never noticed any "class distinction" in Celebration. There is no caste system, with Village Home dwellers outranking the Garden Home sect, which looks down on The Bungalow Bunch, etc. No matter what type of home you live in, you're a welcomed member of the community at large. Occasionally, some online sniping will break out between renters and homeowners or between year 'round residents and snowbirds, but it's usually short-lived.

Of course, that doesn't mean that there aren't a few people who embody the Celebration Reputation. I've only encountered them once, not long after we had signed the contract to purchase our home. Before I go into detail, here's a little background for those who are not familiar with the various Celebration home types: a triplex is actually called an "attached bungalow" in Celebration-speak, and it is the least expensive non-condo home type. We have an end unit, and I think it's somewhere around 1600 square feet, with two bedrooms (technically three if you converted the formal room on the first floor), two full baths, and a powder room. We also have a little front and back yard, a porch large enough to hang a swing, and a one-car garage with room enough to park a car in the driveway (a car-length driveway is a rarity for many Celebration dwellings). Hopefully this will give you somewhat of a mental picture.

At the time we bought our place, it was nothing but a flat, sandy patch dotted with deer tracks and a Lot 64 marker post. But the model was almost identical to the unit we were buying, both inside and out. The only big differences were the exterior paint and the fact that our formal room would have French doors, while the model's had an open wall.

This striking similarity gave my husband and I a convenient opportunity to take measurements and plot out our furniture placement. We were pretty much starting from scratch to outfit our new home, and I worked at a furniture store so I know how long it can take to get the items once you order them. This allowed us to begin our shopping early and simply arrange delivery once our house was done.

One afternoon we stopped by to take some measurements and just generally poke around, doing some starry-eyed imagining of what our dream home would look like in a few short months. While we were there, a couple of locals stopped in to look around. As they explored the model, they kept up a non-stop commentary about how they could never live in such a place and how they just couldn't believe that anyone actually would. You would have thought it was a refrigerator box under a viaduct with a shopping cart parked in front! I got the distinct impression that if they could, they would have formed an angry mob with pitchforks and torches to drive all the triplex and duplex lowlifes out of their pristine town. If they had been my first contact with Celebration residents, I probably would have been a "Reputation" believer.

Of course, as they left, they did concede to each other that such a tiny place might be okay for a vacation home if you didn't have to stay there more than one week at a time.

Perhaps I should have been offended, but I was actually more amused. Having met many other locals already, I knew that those two people were not representative of Celebration at large. All I could do was snicker at their vanity and wonder what unfortunate life experiences had caused them to tie their self-esteem into the size and price of their homes.

When they were gone, I said to my husband, "Honey, we're nothing but triplex trailer trash." (I have an odd sense of humor, but I come from the sort of family where my brother compares himself with pride to Randy Quaid in the vacation movies, right down to his eight children). I liked that label, and soon it became our little inside joke.

Now, whenever we tell someone that we're from Celebration and get that famous "Oh," we quickly qualify our statement with, "But don't worry, we're triplex trailer trash." Most people have no clue what we're talking about, but it still amuses me because it conjures up a vision of Miss Haughty and Miss Big Snoot, the living embodiments of the Celebration Reputation.

Although I joke about it, I think it's unfortunate that so many people in the surrounding areas believe that all Celebration residents are that way. In reality, it's a town full of friendly, down-to-earth, fun-loving people living normal lives in a place that somehow managed to garner an almost mythic reputation. Our snob quotient is no higher than any community with similar demographics. Personally, I believe that our "friendly factor" is greater than the norm, probably because so many people moved to Celebration based on the promise of neighborliness, which has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It still drives me a little crazy when people judge me by my address. All too often, when I admit to being from Celebration, I just know they are picturing my palatial mansion, which no doubt features Mickey Mouse as my butler. My home is modest, but even it was the biggest estate in town, that doesn't change who I am.

But I'm learning to my feelings around and to even embrace the reputation. I am just finishing my doctorate in psychology, and my focus is on cognitive/behavioral theory. One of its tenets is that you cannot control what other people think of you or do, but you can control your reaction. So why not have a little fun with it? (By the way, I discuss the concept of embracing negatives and turning them into positives in one of the articles on my professional website. Click here for the index, and select "Embrace Your Feelings."

At any rate, I consider it an honor to have others believe I am worthy of the Celebration Reputation. Those of you who have been following my blog might recall the "drive by heckling," when a carload of teens shouted, "Rich Celebration bitches on your rich Celebration bikes!" while my husband and I were pedaling around town one evening. Rather than let it bother me, my husband and I got a good laugh out of it, especially considering that we were riding our $89 K-Mart specials. But I'll be a "Celebration Rich Bitch" if they want me to be; after all, it has sort of a nice ring to it.

If only they knew they were applying that label to the same people who would actually deign to live in a house deemed too small and substandard for anything but brief vacation stints by those people in the model. But if they want to think of me as "Triplex Trailer Trash," that's fine, too. I'm honored to have such a diverse dual identity.

Maybe someday I will get a custom made t-shirt with "Celebration Rich Bitch" printed on one side and "Triplex Trailer Trash" on the other. That way, I can simply stand backwards or forwards, depending on who I am talking to. Call me what you will, as long as I am a Celebration resident.

If you have comments on my blog or questions about Celebration, email me at

Check out my Celebration website at You can also view my Disney-related travel agency site at and my seminar/life coaching site at

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