Now and Then: Disneyland Through the Years
I remember getting dizzy on my third birthday and loving it. I was at Disneyland at Christmastime, riding the teacups. I’ve had the unique pleasure and privilege of enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth for four decades. So much has changed, and yet the magic still remains.
When I was three, the Dumbo ride scared me because it was too high and too fast, but a hug from Mickey Mouse and my own set of Mickey ears made up for it.
In sixth grade, my class went to Disneyland for a field trip. We each got a book of tickets, labeled A through E. There were several A-tickets for the slow, non-scary rides. The precious few E-tickets were for rides like the Matterhorn or Snow White, which inspired the expression “an E-ticket ride” in reference to something wild, fun and/or scary. Throughout the day, my friends and I positioned ourselves in lines close to cute boys to potentially strike up a conversation and ride together. Even with though I was a cool pre-teen, I had brought my autograph book, hoping with childlike enthusiasm to get Goofy’s signature.
In my twenties, I was overwhelmed by the sheer energy it took to wrangle kids captivated by “Disney-fever.” Surely I was never so mesmerized (ha!). Almost as soon as my nephews and I entered the newly opened Toontown, I lost the younger of the two boys. After frantically searching, I finally asked someone for help and they radioed to the lost parents’ office where Taylor was waiting. As I ran to Main Street I wondered what I would tell his mother. But Taylor was just fine. He had calmly walked up to a cast member and said, “My family is lost.” He, of course, was not lost. After all, how could a kid be lost in Disneyland?
Years later, I was able show my own children the magic and wonder of Disneyland every December and for each of their birthdays. I can still see my daughter’s big blue eyes bug out at the pageantry of the Lion King Parade. My boys loved the snow that fell on Main Street at the holidays. It was so much fun to try out new rides and watch the transformation of older rides. I rejoiced at the opening of California Adventure - not only was it a little quieter, but they also served wine and beer for the frazzled parent in need of a little reprieve.
Now my teen boys would rather I not accompany them to Disneyland, but that doesn’t stop me from going. I still run from ride to ride and wait in line to stand next to a character I admire.
When I was a kid, Disney was simply the manifestation of dreams come true, which didn’t seem so farfetched to a dreamer like me. But as adult pragmaticism can dull the shimmer of wonder, a place like Disneyland becomes ever more important to feel and live the magic every child knows in his or her heart.