I’m sitting here in Orlando, Florida – the land of sunshine, swamps, afternoon thunderstorms, and all things Disney.
It’s the real “La La land,” surrounded by private living enclaves with streets named Dreamy and Bonnet Lane. Bright, cheerful road signs dot the highway. A Disney archway blasts: “Where all your dreams come true.”
The gift shop at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel sells Princess gowns and magic sabers, luring childhood dreams as adult conference-goers dash by with tags dangling from their necks.
I point to the plaster-molded regal crowns under glass that line the hallway as Hank and I make our way to a dinner with business friends.
“This is insane. It’s Disney everywhere here,” I say. “I just don’t get the Disney thing.”
My pragmatic husbands responds with, “Lots of people like it, Heath.”
“I guess, but I’m not getting the allure.”
Have I forgotten the wide eyes of our children on their first trip to Disneyland? Or, that our daughter, Hilary, wore a Snow White dress for a week and begged for a Cinderella Birthday Party at five?
Or that I’d found Hank’s Daniel Boone hat in an old box tucked away when we were cleaning the garage?
Still, I don’t get the Disney thing.
After dinner, we hop in a car that will take us back to our hotel. On the floor of the backseat there is a bright colored sabre. I pick it up and show it to the driver. “I see someone on your last run left a souvenir.”
“Oh, no!” he sighs. “That belongs to the little eight-year old autistic boy here with his family. I’m going back to their hotel to return it.”
“You are so kind,” I say.
“I’m a grandfather,” he tells us. “You should have seen the delight in this kid. The parents said they’ve never seen him so happy. I have to return this to him. It’s not that far away.”
“Yes,” I say, looking out the window at Goofy on a marquis touting: “Where to next!”
I turn to Hank. “You’ve got to hand it to Walt Disney. That little boy who forgot his sabre…the joy he had all day in the park.”
Back at our hotel, I see tired parents pushing strollers, a child asleep on a father’s shoulder, his Mickey ears cocked to the side.
My Disney cynicism has washed away. How wonderful to enjoy the illusion of fantasy while the real world sometimes seems in disarray.
“I get it now,” I tell Hank.