When I was a little girl, and even NOT such a little girl... growing up was a Disney thing to do. I saw Lady and the Tramp countless times, I saw Aristocats, I saw Bambi (and still weep at it), Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, CInderella, Snow WHite, Alice in WOnderland, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmations. I saw, later, The Fox and the Hound, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid. I saw both Fantasias (and own them both on DVD).
I saw Mary Poppins when it first came out and I was - what - seven years old or something like that.
I had less sympathy for things like Aladdin and Pocahontas (except for that one wonderful song) and the later animations, and somehow even less so for the Pixar-ish stuff like Toy Story and the like - when things started getting far too commercial. Aladdin's music was pure commercial crap, with $$$ signs instead of creativity as the guiding factor. The Lion King worked for me because I identified with the subject matter and I also happen to like Elton John, but that was fluke. I loved the old original Disney stuff, the kind that dreams were made of when I was a little girl. The true magic. Not the commercial, not the hokey, not the "buy the ears" mentality.
But I had never been to Disneyland, nor had the opportunity to do so, when I was the right age to have completely believed in that early sense of wonder. And now, going in as an adult, I was braced for the hokey - and plenty of hokey there was too, with the little train we took, which rode around the perimeter of teh park, going through a patch of thin forest and the patter going, "ooooh. We're in the wilds now. There's lions and tigers and elephants in there. Who knows what you might see?" (yeah yeah yeah. I've seen the real thing. No self-respecting tiger would be found dead in that scrub, an elephant would have been visible from a mile away, and lions live in savannahs anyway. But anyway.)
One of the main reasons that rdeck wanted to take me there was the "It's a small world" ride and its earworm song - which I had *never heard before then*. So that's the first thing we did, sat in the dinky little boat and dived into a never-ending repetition of "It's a smaaaaaal world, iiiiiiisn't it" iterated a half-dozen different ways and in four or five different languages - and you know, I loved it, I giggled like a schoolgirl, and pointed and gaped, and laughed, and giggled some more, and called out "Japan! New Zealand! Russia!" when we were passing through the sections depicting those regions. It was WONDERFUL. Yes, despite the earworm [grin]. But then it was over, and we started to make our way towards the heart of Disneyland, the Sleeping Beauty castle, to find a good spot for the fireworks.
And got sidetracked by another crowd.
"What's going on?" we asked a young be-badged girl manning a "handicapped only zone" partition.
"The parade," she said. "It's about to start." She noticed rdeck's cane, and lifted the rope. "You want to come in and watch?"
So we did.
And my childhood came rolling down the avenue towards me.
Oh, don't get me wrong - it was STILL hokey - a girl in a long redhead wig and a green tulle-and-sequins tail sat on top of the Little Mermaid float waving at people and calling out to the kids, "Do you have a dream? You DO?!? Because I do too!" while swishing said tail... but damn it. Damn it all. There they all came - Snow White and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with their princes, the Fairy Godmother, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts, Doc and Grumpy and the rest of the Dwarves, Donald Duck waving at me from the tail end of a float, Tinkerbell sprinkling fairydust from the front of another.
And I cried, okay? I sat there and cried. The power of hokey carries a big stick, but I was so young when all of these things were part of my world, and so brimful of wonder and anticipation and promises, and I was watching all these *people in costume* waltzing down the avenue and seeint nothing but the real thing. I remember Dopey the Dwarf. He was my friend when I was six. I grew up singing "Some day my prince will come". I remember the brilliant smile of a fading Cheshire Cat as though it was flashed at me yesterday. I remember clapping my hands because I believed in fairies. I remembered.
I took a few pictures and then I couldn't take any more, because I was crying like a child, the child I haven't been for a very long time. It's not that I'm OLD, you understand... but for a moment, there, I was YOUNG again. I was back in a world where the world bore only love and security and joy, no responsibilities, no cruelty and no harshness, no knowledge of war or pain or the realities of a broken heart - all of that was still in the future and I was cradled in the blissful arms of a chillike innocence and sank into it like a child into the arms of its mother.
I was still trembling with it all when the parade finished and we made our way to the central quad, with its iconic and currently pink-lit (making it look like spun candy) Sleeping Beauty castle. We found a spot to sit from where we would watch the fireworks, and it seemed like a good place to park in an increasingly congested and crwoded place - so I left my husband there to guard the spot while I went for a prowl down the main street shopping.
You will be happy to know that I was back in Hokeyland, and it was my grown-up self who resisted the lures of Mickey ears, or Tinkerbell sleeping shirts, or Disney Princess glass slipper mementoes. I wandered up and down the street, and returned with a single small purchase which fit in my handbag. Then we settled to wait.
Twice they warned that atmospheric conditions might not be right for fireworks that night, and the rumble that swept the crowd was a little ugly - in fact, the woman next to us on the bench threatened to sue if they cancelled the fireworks, which left a bit of a sour taste in my own mouth - yeah I would have been bitterly disappointed at the non-event but SUE?... Can anyone say litiginous?...
In either event it was a moot point, because the lights dimmed and the fireworks began.
"Back to Neverland!" cried a half-familiar voice on the soundtrack accompaniment.
Stars exploded in the sky. Bright rockest turned night into day. The castle was part of the whole things with the lights changing from the Barbie pink to a haunted dark blue or a poisionous dark greeen accompanied by an evil witchy cackle. Tinkerbell flew across the sky - yes, a real image of Tinkerbell, I don't know how they did that. Brightness. Lights, Joy. And then the soundtrack segued into, "When you wish upon a star..."
And I cried.
I know it's all fake. But for a few moments, that one magic night, they reminded me of what was real. ANd what is real is the stuff that I carry in my own heart.
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are - and dreams come true.
For one night, I was a child again.
Thank you, Tinkerbell.