by Blake Taylor
The sun outside is not sweltering, but warm enough to merit a complimentary cup of ice water. So I wait for my turn inside the Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street, USA in Disneyland. A distinct chill in the air conditioning (perhaps unintentionally) beckons images of a gusty wind blowing a nanny onto Cherry Tree Lane. A merry instrumental of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” subtly plays in the background.
As I shuffle a few steps ahead and the line moves forward, I contemplate what my next adventure of the day will entail before glancing down at my phone to check the time. 4:45. Wait a minute. What? It can’t be 4:45 already. I think of what I wanted to do today that I haven’t yet conquered and realize that my mental checklist is all but complete. Indiana Jones, check. Pirates of the Caribbean, check. Toontown, check. Space Mountain, check. Parade, check. The parade—brilliant, by the way—just ended, so of course my phone’s time must be correct. Yet I do not want to believe what that time really means: I only have thirty minutes left of Disney magic.
That’s it. Thirty minutes and I have to be out of here in time to catch the motor coach back to the airport. In twelve hours, I’ll be stepping onto my front porch back at home. What’s more, once I arrive home, I know it will only be full speed ahead charging toward the imminent, shadowing arrival of college, a concept I know I must ultimately embrace but still attempt to shove to the back of my mind. Once I get home, that will have to take the forefront of my priorities, as move-in day is a mere two weeks after this Disney trip. This day is not only the last day of my vacation; in a way, it’s also the last day of my childhood. This idea might be a bit overdramatic, but it resonates with the stomach-pummeling reverberation that its weight carries. Today is the last day of my childhood. And what better way to spend it than in Disneyland.
So the thought prompts a question: what does one do with 30 minutes to spare in a Disney park? What does one do when they’re by themselves after the day has fulfilled its promises of magic and wonder? I think of it this way: six months from now, what would I give to have thirty minutes by myself here? What would I do with that time? I get my cup of water and stroll onto Main Street, not knowing exactly where to tell my feet to take me but knowing that I must make a decision soon, or time will be up. I begin to frantically search my mind to think of something that I can get in and out of in half an hour that will be a fulfilling capstone to a magical Disney vacation, something that will allow me to remain in this moment long after it has passed. Then I come to the notion that the best way to stay in this moment is to do just that—stay in it.
I find a bench in the Hub. Sleeping Beauty Castle holds court to my right, while the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse stands to my left. The past week has been my first exploration of Disneyland after many adventures in its Florida counterpart. This is the only park property that Walt walked in himself, the only physical space he dreamt up for families to experience together that he lived to see to completion. Well, not completion. He said himself that it would never be completed as long as imagination is left in the world. But this is the only theme park on the planet that has Walt’s direct, personal stamp of involvement. To have the opportunity to admire and play inside the place that meant so much to a man I respect so greatly—that’s pretty special.
As I sit on the bench, I make a few phone calls. That’s not normally something I encourage much while inside a Disney park, but for now I break the rule to leave a voicemail for the WDW Radio Show and to call my mom, who’s back home chomping at the bit to hear every last detail of Disneyland magic. Once I hang up, I merely sit. Horse-drawn trolleys pass by. Cast Members with dustpans follow those horses, not letting the nature of their current task hinder their cheerful appearance. Ducks waddle their way through groups of Guests. The Dapper Dans’ melodies can be heard in the distance. Families travel together, smiles on their faces and Guidemaps in their hands as they chart the course for their next endeavor. And before I know it, it’s 5:15.
It’s time to go.
Physically putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that I am voluntarily choosing myself to walk out of Disneyland, not knowing when or if I will return, is something that’s pretty tough to do. In the scope of the darkness that surrounds many people, places, and circumstances all over our globe, it admittedly is not an antagonizing undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. If the biggest thing that rocks my world is having to leave a Disney park, then I’ve got it pretty good. It wouldn’t have such potency if it wasn’t so special to me, which it is. The best part is that the joy, fantasy, and magic that permeates here is something that I can be equipped with to bring my own brand of it to those outside its gates—at school, at home, and beyond.
I reach Town Square and turn around, soaking in one last look at Sleeping Beauty Castle. From this point, I am moving on. Things won’t be the same. The dynamic and domain of my family will significantly change in the coming months as such a drastic transition unfolds. But the castle nudges me to remember something that I need to take hold of: people grow up. There’s no stopping that. But no matter how old I grow, no matter what stage of life I am in—it’s important that I value my family because they will always be there for me. And so will Mickey.
Blake is a college student focusing on Creative Writing and Media Studies. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade on Main Street and then sprint to Frontierland in time to see it again. You can follow Blake’s random Disney ramblings on Twitter at @blakeonline, or at BlakeOnline.com.