Originally posted June 16, 2010
So, I think it’s important to start out with some background information on myself. I believe if you’re taking the time to follow this blog, and I do hope it’s interesting enough for you to continue, you have the right to know a little about me and my motivations behind it.
I was born a poor black child (oh wait that’s Steve Martin’s line). Actually I was born about an hour north of Anaheim (well it was an hour north in 1955) in the sleeping little hamlet of Oxnard about six weeks after Disneyland opened. By age four we were living in the southern part of San Jose or as my Mother liked to call it, “Sun Baked Acres.” My childhood until the age of nine was pretty normal and enjoyable, though I probably wouldn’t have known the difference at that age. I can say however, that the time after nine was anything but idyllic. Okay, truth be told, after age nine my life pretty much went to hell in a hand basket. I did really understand it back then, and probably didn’t fully comprehend it until I started raising kids of my own. But, that is material for a different blog. Living in Northern California, Disney was not a significant part of my young life. I only remember one trip to Disneyland as a teenager. I was told we went when I was about 6 or 7, but I honestly don’t remember it. However, I do remember waiting anxiously for Sunday night and “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, and Tinker Bell. That was really special time for me to escape into a world of fantasy where my pains of the time could not intrude. I think it was around the age of 6 or 7 that my infatuation with Tink developed. Oh yes, and all those years later when Julia Roberts played her in “Hook” did nothing to curb that infatuation. And, there were the few Disney Features that I did get to see. That was pretty much my experience with Disney. As I grew into adulthood, I was still a fan of course, but it wasn’t Disney that was really that important in my life as I struggled to establish myself in the world.
Given my childhood experiencing and the resulting inordinate fear of commitment it created in my life, I married a little later in life than most. I was almost 30 when I got married and 35 before we had our first child. So, that put me into my early 40’s as my daughters reached 5 and 7. They had grown up to that point around the Disney animated features and of course the Disney merchandising juggernaut. I’m sure some will want to comment about my parenting skills, but the Disney animated features available on video were 90 minutes of bliss with two young children in the house. Pam would load up the VCR with Disney movie and the girls would sit there and stare mesmerized by the images on the TV. Pam could get a few things done, and I could grab a few extra winks, as I was working a second job at the time. I can remember a period when Theresa was about 4, every Saturday morning I woke up to “Beauty and the Beast” playing in the VCR. Up until recently I could still recite the dialog without benefit of the movie.
It was in mid 1997 that we were finally in a position that we could take the girls to Disneyland for the first time. It was a bit of a struggle financially, but, we made it work. That is probably to best investment I have ever made, as it seems to be the catalyst that was brought me to this point. For anyone who has not had the opportunity, you have to take a child of about age 5, or so, to Disneyland for the first time. It is an amazing experience! Walking through the tunnel onto Main Street, I was struck by a feeling that I did not understand until the next visit, but, watching my daughters experience the Disney magic for first time was an experience that I will never forget and one of my fondest memories as a father. In particular, watching my youngest daughter Theresa, or T as she has become to us, was a remarkable event. It started with the shuttle bus from the hotel to the park. As we board the bus for our first trip to the park, T asked the driver (a very nice lady) if she was taking us to Disneyland. Upon receiving a big smile and a resounding, “Why yes I am little lady,“ T immediately followed with a big “THANK YOU, Ma’am!” and a hug. I thought the drive and the first couple of rows of passengers were growing to start crying on the spot. Hugs became the currency of the kingdom for that trip. Upon meeting Belle (her favorite Princess then) for the first, I have a picture somewhere of her trying to hug the stuffing out of that poor girl. On the several occasions as she encounter other cast member for whatever reason, there was the “Thank You” followed by a hug. Watching her eyes dart from one sight to the next, wide with wonder, was marvelous. It was at that point that I truly realized that you can witness magic in a child’s eyes, and it was one of the turning points in my life.
It was our next visit to Disneyland four years later; that the stage was set for my journey of exploration. I had been planning a fishing trip in the California Sierra’s for most of the late summer in 2001, after a particularly busy time at work, and then the tragedy of 9/11 struck. As the time approached for my excursion to the mountains, I decided this was not best time for me to be away from my family for any reason. Instead, still needing the time to decompress from a busy work life, my wife and I decided (actually I decided, and she went along) it was time for some family fun. Since we were in a much better position financially, we decided that another trip to Disneyland was in order, and this time we could afford to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. The Saturday before Thanksgiving we were on the road to Anaheim for 4 day at Disneyland. I was unaware of the happenings at Disneyland, so you can imagine my surprise at the changes we saw when we arrived. I was impressed with the changes, but, wary of how it might have affected the Disneyland Park itself.
As we walked through the tunnel from the turnstiles onto Main Street for the first time this trip, I was struck by a familiar and very comforting feeling. I recognized this feeling as the same one I had experienced four years earlier and had not understood at the time, and this time memories I thought long lost began to flood my brain. It was that feeling of youthful exuberance and innocence. I felt like a kid again, for the first time in over 30 years, and it was okay. As I stepped onto Main Street, I realized that I had been given a second chance to truly experience the Disney Magic for the first time. I was seeing Disneyland through the eyes of youth, but with experience to truly appreciate it. One memorable event during this trip was an encounter with Mickey Mouse himself at his house in ToonTown. As I was walking up to Mickey to take a picture, I told him, “You’re shorter then I remember.” Without missing a beat, using a sort of sign language Mickey told me, “You’re taller than I remember.” Even though intellectually I know it’s a kid in a costume, the kid in me was saying, “Wow, Mickey remembers me!” It was at this point that I began understand the true gift and magic Walt Disney bequeathed to us; it is okay to be a child. To put that a little more clearly, while we must all grow up and lose our childishness, we can all keep that child like wonder of world forever, if we want it hard enough. Sometimes we have to go back and search for that kid in those dark recesses of our minds.
So now I am on a quest to understand the man, or more rightfully the two men that created the magic, and built the company entrusted to help it live on for all of us.
Your comments or questions are always welcome. If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org