I've been meaning to share with with you all for some time and I've finally gotten around to it. I hope you enjoy it.
When I was about 8 years old, I distinctly remember the joy and excitement I felt the night before we went to Disneyland. That night, we were staying at the Disneyland Hotel in a room that overlooked the park. For at least 10 minutes, I stood there motionless, face pressed against the window glass, eyes scanning wildly, as I surveyed the park and imagined the following day’s events. Finally, my dad pulled me away from the window and urged me to go to bed. As my head hit the pillow, my mind was working overtime, envisioning all the wonderful things I would see and do the next day. My body tingled with joy and excitement. I could not sleep. Just like the commercial that would appear some 20 years later, I was “too excited to sleep.”
The anticipation was growing with each passing minute. I had never felt like this before (at least not so intensely) and I loved it. It was like Christmas morning x10. I got up and went back to the window. There I saw the Matterhorn towering above the park like a giant Christmas tree. All the rides and attractions were scattered around it like gifts to me, from Walt. Suddenly, I was wishing it were morning, so I ran back to bed, threw the covers over my head and tried to go to sleep. I lay there awake for what seemed like forever (it was probably only 15 minutes), but eventually exhaustion took over and I fell asleep.
The next day we rode the monorail into Disneyland. As we sailed high above Tomorrowland, I swelled with excitement until I could hardly contain myself. Once in the park, it was even better than I imagined. I found myself immersed in rich, detailed worlds of adventure, fantasy and technology, all of which was intensified by my imagination. For a day, I sailed with pirates, journeyed deep into the jungle, fought off attacks from the walls of Fort Wilderness, traveled through Inner-Space, rode a bobsled down an Alpine mountain, drove a car through Toad Hall, cruised deep beneath the ocean waves, and blasted off into the deepest reaches of space. I believed in the magic of Disneyland and the reward was admittance into a world beyond my wildest dreams. I was sad to leave the next day, but my short time spent there fueled my imagination for months back in the real world.
As I grew up, I began to notice the joy and excitement I felt for Disneyland began to fade. The “night before” feelings that had so consumed me in my youth seemed to disappear with each passing year until as an adult, the “night before” was the same as any other night. My experiences in the park seemed to become a little less engrossing as well, to the point where I felt almost removed from the experience. I still had fun and deeply enjoyed the park, but it was different now. It was almost as if I was watching a movie of it instead of being part of it and really living it.
I was seeing Disneyland (and the world) though the eyes of an adult now, filtered through the experiences of my life. I had been trained to use logic and skepticism – to protect myself from cheats and liars in the real world by spotting tricks and falsehoods. Unfortunately, I these are not tools I could just turn off when I went to Disneyland. I wanted it to be as it was when I was a kid. I would try to achieve a state of suspended disbelief in order to gain a footing (if only for a moment) back in that magical world. But I could not. As much as I wanted to believe in the magic, I could see through the illusions now.
I cannot say that I wasn’t warned. Specifically, I remember an eerie voice whispering a warning though the caverns of POTC, “Perhaps he knows too much!” Before I knew it, it was too late. I do know too much. And now, the pirates do not attempt to warn me anymore.
In 2006, some of that magic came back into my life when my wife gave birth to our daughter. I won’t bore you by gushing about her or telling you my opinions on fatherhood, but I will tell you that being a husband and a father have been the most rewarding experience in my life. As my daughter grew and developed, I saw that joy and excitement in her that I had as a child. What’s more, playing with her, I felt reconnected to my childhood. It wasn’t long before I started feeling the need for a Disneyland trip.
My wife and I didn’t quite know what to expect of our first trip to the park with our daughter. She was still pretty young (1 year old) and wasn’t walking yet. We figured she would not remember any of it, but we would remember and we hoped she would enjoy it at least. To our surprise, not only did she enjoy it, she seemed to have a blast. Here is a sampling of what we experienced:
As you can see in the video, the parade was a big hit. She was so excited, clapping as fast as her little hands could go. It was such an awesome moment to share with her, tears welled up in my eyes and as I looked at my wife, I saw her wiping a tear from her eye too.
For that moment, I once again felt the joy and excitement I experienced as a child at Disneyland. During our trip, there were many moments like this and the whole park seemed to regain the sparkle it had when I was 8 years old. I no longer felt removed, I was part if it. So long as my daughter was holding my hand, I was immersed in those wonderful worlds of fantasy, adventure, and technology again. I was seeing it all through new eyes now – the bright wide eyes of a child, my child – and I believed in the magic again.
If you've had a similar experience or some event has given you a new appreciation for Disneyland, feel free to share it here.