WHAT HAPPENED WAS…
I walked out of a store with a princess hat on my head when I was four years old. My parents didn’t notice until we were far, far away.
I still have that hat.
We saw a wild turkey on the side of the road as the bus drove us to the park on Thanksgiving. I later surmised that it was an escapee from the Disney Wilderness Preserve, a wildlife refuge located 30 miles south of Orlando.
Can turkeys travel that far?
My brother and I stood before the eager crowd, candy-filled wands in hand, and led the countdown before the Magic Kingdom would open. I don’t remember what magic word we chose.
We got honorary monorail driver’s licenses.
A lady in a wheelchair was crying hysterically as cast members swifted her through a secret door to the land beyond the Kingdom.
An Indian woman tried to drown herself in the lake at EPCOT in front of her husband and children, who stood awkwardly off to the side, trying to be as inconspicuous as you can be when you’re standing by a screaming lady threatening to jump into the foot-high water.
The cast member whose job was to clean up the bird poop and garbage talked her out of it.
We were the first people on the Peter Pan ride that morning and the music wasn’t turned on yet. We listened to the eerie hum of the machinery as our flying ship took us through Neverland.
I heard the crocodile’s jaw snap.
On a late night bus ride back to our hotel, the driver told us that EPCOT stands for “Every Parent Carries One Toddler.”
Or “Every Purse Comes Out Thinner.”
Or “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”
My brother and I, in an attempt to make Big Thunder Mountain more thrilling, sat in the car at the end of the train and faced backwards. As the train sped downwards we saw the world underneath the park from between the slats in the track.
There was a basketball hoop beneath us.
Everyone who got to the park early lined up for the Sprint, a sometimes violent race to the more popular rides as the park opened for the general public.
I saw children being dragged by their parents, their arms nearly dislocating, their feet barely touching the ground. I saw grown men and women leave fallen elderly parents behind.
It got so bad that eventually it was demoted to the Controlled Power Walk.
I was too small to reach the pedal on the Tomorrowland Speedway car. I gave up about halfway through the track. A passing cast member rescued me.
My dad offered to take us back in order to experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, our favorite, one last time before it closed. They replaced it with a Winnie the Pooh ride.
I still regret saying that I didn’t want to miss school just for that.
We took the monorail from hotel to hotel in a quest to complete our sets of Seven Dwarfs mini dolls.
The mission was eventually accomplished at the Disney Store in the Sawgrass Mills shopping mall.
When Disney pin collecting first started getting popular, a cast member had to make a trade if a visitor proposed it, even if it was to their disadvantage.
They had access to rare and antique pins.
A few years ago, a new rule was instated to prevent rip-offs. All trades with cast members must be fair.
In the early 2000’s I realized that the Backlot Tour at MGM took us past the soundstages where the All New Mickey Mouse Club was filmed.
My two favorite *NSYNCers, Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez, were on the MMC.
That same year I also realized that *NSYNC had performed their very first Disney concert at MGM.
I took pictures of both places.
The night we moved from Florida to Indiana, we made a last-minute stop at Downtown Disney so we could each buy one final souvenir. I bought a picture frame shaped like Cinderella’s Castle.
I haven’t been back to Disney since.
Once, when we were staying at the Port Orleans resort, my mom slipped on a puddle by the pool and almost broke her arm.
We like to joke that if she could just have managed to do that, we might now own Port Orleans.
One summer, back when TV Land was just Nick at Nite, the evening line-up was: Monkee Monday (The Monkees), Lucy Tuesday (I Love Lucy), Bewitched Wednesday (Bewitched), Happy Days Thursday (Happy Days) and Block Party Friday (viewers’ choice).
I was never one of those people who conflated Disney with Nickelodeon, which is based in Universal Studios.
The reason I mention the TV schedule is because around that time my mom and I saw Davy Jones at EPCOT as we were leaving the bathroom. He was walking, unattended, across the sidewalk to the amphitheater.
Sometimes, I dream of returning to Disney.
I always wake up crying.
Is that a sign of obsession?