Back, when I was a little kid, I wanted one thing: to go to Walt Disney World. Back then, the place was brand new; it had just opened, and people were all a buzz about it. I was eight, and just the thought of meeting Mickey Mouse, riding “It’s a Small World” and going on the “Jungle Cruise” was enough to make me smile.
In 1968, my older brother and I went with my Florida. We’d seen the Gulf Coast, stopped at the Kennedy Space Center and visited family. I was hopeful of another visit, one that included a stop at you-know-where.
A couple years later, we were in Florida, again. This time we went to look and properties as an investment for the future. My parents were considering moving to Florida. They wanted to see what kinds of developments were available.
My parent went on all kinds of tours. I sat in the sales office and waited. Back then, places didn’t set up much in the way of playrooms for the kids; if I was lucky I watched a soap opera on a snowy TV.
I begged my parents to go to Disney World. My dad thought it too expensive. Instead, we went to Bush Gardens, which, back then, was just that: some tropical gardens around the Busch Brewery.
We took the Busch Garden tour, which I liked. Then, at the end, we went to their hospitality house where my dad actually could drink all the free beer we wanted. Then he got behind the wheel of our car and drove us to our next hotel!
Yeah, a different time, different ideas and actions were okay.
Alas, no visit to Disney, that time. Finally, when I was thirteen, my dad and I went to Disney World. By then, he and my mom had divorced. He was trying to make me happy. In those days, they had the tickets A through E; we had to figure out which rides we really wanted to go on so, to use the tickets in the most efficient manner. I had my trip to Disney, but it was a hollow victory. At that age, the magic was gone. I was old enough to know the truth about how things worked there, and so while it was fun; it was not as joyous as it could have been.
Just this past weekend, I finally saw the magic. My wife and I took our close friends to Disney World. They and their two little girls, ages eight and three.
The girls met several of the characters and got autographs. We took them on a bunch of the rides. The most special of which was “Small World.” We sat up at the front of the little boat that carries you through the attraction. The little one, we put her in the front seat. Her little behind barely filled half of it; her small feet dangled high about the floor.
She sat there, in rapt attention, her eyes big, her mouth open, taking it all in, as a sponge, She gazed at the little children from all over the world happily singing that oh-so-familiar song over and over again in their native language. Myself, I barely fit into the seat behind her, my knees drawn up to almost my chin. I didn’t really take note of the ride; after all, I’d seen it quite a few times). No, I was watching her.
There, reflected on those cute little eyes, was the magic I’d lost so many years before. For just a few minutes, I was no longer a forty-something husband and father, with a mortgage and a job. I whizzed back to a time when a “Mounds” bar was better than money because I could eat it. I could “talk” to my dog Rex about anything, the old couch in the cellar could be anything from a plane to a submarine, and all I had to worry about was homework and my mom’s eggplant parmesan. Yuck!
I think we’ll be taking the girls on a lot more trips to Disney in the future.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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