Friday, December 09, 2005

THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH

After just returning from another trip to Disney, I offer two takes on the place. I have lots of happy memories there, and for whatever reason, I have felt obligated to take my children. That Mouse is one powerful creature....

My Life in Trips to Disney World

The first time, I was six.
I wore a Cinderella-blue dress,
and I believed life was all
sparkly wands and glass slippers.

The second, I was fourteen
and I brought my very best friend Michelle.
We wore short-shorts
and blue eye-shadow
and finally understood why
Snow White couldn’t resist the apple.

When I was eighteen, I moved out,
put on a silver polyester space suit
to work the Epcot ticket counter.
I fell in love a few times,
but never with Prince Charming.

Eventually I grew up,
moved on,
invested in happily ever after.
And after five years of marriage,
my husband put us on a plane
bound for the castle where we
spooned in a hammock by a lagoon,
our bodies warm and familiar as Florida air.

Just like a fairy tale,
babies soon followed,
and when each child turned four
we again made the pilgrimage,
their Tinkerbell-smiles
our wish upon a star.

And finally, the last time,
in a pumpkin disguised as a van,
chasing the clock
that will soon strike midnight,
turn our boys into men.

- Irene Latham


Things I’ve Learned at Walt Disney World (in no particular order)

There is no such thing as “comfortable walking shoes” after you’ve been in the park for nine hours.

Just because a child meets the height requirement for a ride does not mean that he should ride it.

It’s not a park, it’s a kingdom. It’s not a ride, it’s an experience.

Sometimes it’s not the Character Breakfast that makes the impression, but the light-up toy in someone else’s stroller. Sometimes it’s not the $40 plush toy but the broken plastic bracelet he picks up off the pavement in the parking lot.

“Priority seating” is not the same thing as a reservation; you still have to wait like everyone else, but presumably not for as long.

Shakespeare was right: Life is a stage. And at Disney these days dressing up seems to be a requirement. I counted dozens and dozens of Cinderellas and Snow Whites and even a few Incredibles.

The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom may be (obviously) artificial, but there’s a genuine tomato tree at The Land exhibit at Epcot that has produced a record setting 17,000+ pounds of fruit.

A forty minute wait can seem like just a moment when your child emerges at the end smiling like the Cheshire Cat or flying high as Dumbo. Or it can feel like an eternity when your child is whiny and begging you to hold him while the perfect one boy/one girl family of four in front of you is playing a agreeable game of I-Spy.

My sons may love to hear the story of how when I was six I cried when the ghost sat in my lap during the Haunted Mansion ride, but my husband could live without the retelling (and retelling) of the Christmas Day I spent in the Magic Kingdom with another man, when we rode just three rides the entire day but it remains one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Truly, it is a great place to try out being someone else. In one day my son was a swashbuckling pirate, a Mexican musician in a sombrero, a Chinese farmer, a field guide, and finally, the one that seemed to fit best: an artist in a genuine French beret.


It’s a fortunate thing I’m a writer because I would have made a lousy astronaut. (They put “space sickness” bags in the Mission: Space ride for a reason.)

People get proposed to in the line to Jungle Cruise (she said “yes, of course!" then promptly called her mother), married at the Polynesian (you want gorgeous photos? Get married at Disney.), and pregnant at the Haunted Mansion. (It IS really dark in there.) No wonder they call it the Happiest Place on Earth. :)

-Irene Latham

3 Comments:

Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

You are a master - only you can write a lovely poem abot DISNEY. I'm bowing down! And how true is your list, I actually had a glitch in the haunted mansion and was the only one without a ghost on my lap - which is scarier?

9:05 AM, December 09, 2005  
Blogger reniebob said...

Thanks... and thanks for giving me a place to post it! I honestly think this was our last trip, thus the sentimentality.
Next time you go, maybe you'll get TWO ghosts. :)

11:33 AM, December 09, 2005  
Blogger Michael Parker said...

Having just come back from Disneyland, CA with the kids for the first time (during Thanksgiving), I greatly enjoyed reading this post--the poem and the "tips" gleaned. I like to call it the Happiest Waiting Place on Earth. Luckily, all of my kids were fabulous while waiting in the lines. This trip was simply magical.

12:20 PM, December 10, 2005  

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