Sunday, January 24, 2016

What a Wonderful World

The world's outlook early in this new year 2016 has seemed to swing madly between grim and ludicrous, a frenzied pendulum of righteous fear and incredulous disbelief of its situation. We are beset by contradictions and confused by chaos. We can hardly bear to look....or look away.

We did what we could to combat the malaise.

We took a family trip to Disney. 
Thirteen of us.  Enough for a group rate on Southwest.  Enough to significantly reduce the consumption of diet Mountain Dew in Atchison county, statistically speaking. Enough to fill every room of a ginormous vacation rental with noise and kids and dirty clothes and wet towels and any number of other items that spent more time lost than found.  We didn't plan to meet this year's rocky start with an in-your-face ebullience, but a swell of intentional enthusiasm grew slowly until it formed a big breaker and we rolled into Orlando on a surfer's curl of high spirits.

Our week had all the plot elements of a Sunday night Wonderful World of Disney adventure. .
There was anticipation. Picture the sleeping characters the night before with cartoonish balloons floating over their pillows. At least half of the sleeping family was dreaming of Star Wars: Stars Wars rides, Star Wars weapons,
 Storm Troopers, 
and various and assorted characters I didn't recognize at all having managed to elude that world since the first movies appeared on videotape.

 Some wished to ride the Teacups and climb the Swiss Family Robinson's tree.
  There was souvenir money to be spent, and favorite childhood haunts to be revisited.
 Could the real thing possibly live up to the Magic Kingdom of their dreams?
There was drama.  Would the family vacation be spoiled by a irreplaceable loss?  (Nope..we found the billfold.) Would Abbie overcome her fear of leprous armadillos or continue to suffer insomnia? The guy who told her armadillos carry leprosy had clearly not been trained at the "Happiest Place on Earth". After his personal space has been invaded one too many times during the fireworks display and watching a drunken altercation at the shuttle back to the parking lots, would Grandpa Blake leave the comforts of a chair by the pool for a second day at a Disney park?

There was bravery.  Abbie, engrossed in the Hall of Presidents, is left behind, but keeps her head and stays put 'til her dad retrieves her. Aaron powers through a brief but nasty bug with a stiff upper lip and a cheery demeanor. Lizzie overcomes the tears of her first roller coaster ride at Space Mountain to take a second spin on the Rockin' Roller coaster at Disney Hollywood.  This time, she says, it was 'fun'. Josh crosses the road to see a gator.  Josh later eats some gator. Bella kisses a gator. Alissa tries an oyster.  So does Gabe.

There were fairy godmothers. Alissa and Bella help their cousins' dreams come true. The boys get LED spinning contraptions at the Electrical Parade; the girls hug treasures from 'Frozen'.
The middle kids fill autograph books with signatures from favorite characters 
while Josh sheds his Mickey Mouse ears just long enough to wear Olaf on his head.
 The older cousins are kind, tolerant, generous good sports who are everyone's first choice to sit by on a ride, in the mini van or on the plane.

And, finally, this being a Disney show, there were dreams come true: a pool party after dark in January..

.an afternoon at the beach digging in the sand and splashing in the surf
....seeing an alligator in the wild..
.an entire family album of photos with a well groomed blue eyed Wookie.
There's Lizzie, front and center in a Disney Hollywood street show, picked out of the audience by the "producer" to answer questions Jeopardy style about the movies...and her question just "happens" to be about 'Frozen'.
The actors are dressed to the nines in 1940's chic; she is "competing" with the bumptious overbearing police chief. Lizzie is by turn nervous and concerned,


and finally, jubilant as the skit plays out.

We cheer and take a dozen pictures of our champion. 'How many of you are there?'asks the lady filling out the magic pass that gets us to the front of the line for the Toy Story ride.  "Thirteen!"we answer, and she says, "What a great group to win!"


"I hear babies cryin'. I watch them grow.
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know

And I think to myself
What a wonderful world...."

of Disney, that is.....

Monday, January 18, 2016

It's Magic!

What is magic?

 It might be a pair of mouse ears from the very first souvenir kiosk inside the gate at the foot of Main Street, USA at Disney World.  The ears and the boy become inseparable; it takes real magic to form a bond like that.  Like true love, it cannot be described; it has to be experienced. 

Everyone knows there is good magic...and bad magic.  Glinda is a good witch; the Fairy Godmother turns mice into footmen; the Wicked Queen makes poisoned apples....and the Wicked Witch of the West and her monkeys were so terrifyingly real (even in black and white!) that I was not completely sorry when my parents sent me to bed before The Wizard of Oz was finished. I knew tornadoes could pick up houses; it followed that wicked witches could command flying monkeys.

If you are five, you know bad magic when you feel it.  Having some strange alien with big ears and long fangs appear out of nowhere to suddenly loom over you with fog and manic laughter and  flashing lights is NOT MAGIC!  It is scary and all the more horrible because you are not expecting it.  If you are five, you tell your mother you don't want to stay at Disney World, no Magic Kingdom for you; you are ready to leave NOW! The power of your mouse ears is no match for the fearful future of Tomorrowland.

That's why a guy needs a sword...straight from the pirate lair, a cutlass perhaps, long enough to stick out beneath one's plaid Bermuda shorts.Why do fortunate pirates have scabbards? So they don't slash themselves in the kneecap as they swash their buckle.

With a sword...or scimitar....or dagger....or light saber, you carry your magic with you.  You can face down those moaning wraiths in the Haunted Mansion and sit tight while cannon balls whistle past your ears in the Pirates of the Caribbean. This pirate gig is contagious; the accessories are so enticing!  Spyglasses and tricorns, maps and medallions for talismans, derring do and ships that fly..

When adults stroll through Fantasyland, we admire the attention to detail, the artfulness of the design, the professional singing and dancing, the cleanliness of the surroundings.  When older children visit, they are entranced by the characters, but they don't have to be told that Chip and Dale are costumed actors, that Tinkerbell doesn't fly without a wire, that the wraiths and ghosts on the rides are special effects of the highest caliber.  Older kids are there to be thrilled by the rides; the magic they experience comes from speed, misdirection, and illusion. An adult in costume is playing Peter Pan or paying homage to a well-loved movie or childhood memory. A young girl in a princess costume with glitter in her Cinderella bun does not expect to meet Prince Charming.  But, like the littlest children in Mary Poppins who can converse with the sun and wind and comprehend the language of birds and animals, a five year old's understanding of make believe seems to be both darker and brighter than any gimmick or device of man's design. A five year old will ask if there are still pirates...

...and whether Beauty's Beast roaring on the stage is a "good guy". 

A guy who is five loves to drive fast; he's his own man soaring with Dumbo, or riding a flying carpet, or spinning like a Mad Hatter in a tea cup....

He will wrap a slimy cobra around his neck...after asking if the basket of curling snakes is real...

He will climb anything and jump off everything. He is brave.

He will even wave at Peter Pan and call out to the Goofy in the parade.

But he will keep a prudent distance from fuzzy ducks or giant chipmunks or Wookies.  He is five, and they are strange and magical....
...and you can't be too careful unless you have your sword...and your ears.