Sometimes I can be incredibly patient. Not always. But when I truly want something I’m happy to play the long game. Wait. Work. Get what you want to achieve.
I waited over 20 years for one of my happiest moments in my life. I was 25 when it happened so if you wanted to be dramatic (which I do) then you could say that I’d waited my entire life for this.
I’d first seen it on Blue Peter. Towering spires melting into the sky. Crowds! Fireworks! The star himself standing right outside immortalised in bronze, Mickey Mouse.
Disney World. Disney. World. A world of Disney. Morning’s of Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, Tailspin and Gargoyles all in one place, a concentrate of fun and adventure all symbolised by the castle in the centre of the park. I had to go to there.
My parents? Well. Their levels of enthusiasm were the polar opposite of mine. I saw hugging Pluto and flying with Peter and I’m pretty sure they saw an expensive trip for a boy that will grow out of his Disney obsession. Their energy was much more in the realm of walks along the scenic parts of Britain not so much queuing for rides in the hot Florida sun. I was not getting to Disney with them and not being old enough to earn, this was one pot I would have to stop watching.
Time went on.
Arguably too much time.
My heart continued to swell for Disney as they continued to release stories I loved. The Emperor’s New Groove. Phineas and Ferb. House of Mouse. Lilo and the legend that is Stitch. All of them like crosses on a map to me and Disney World was the treasure. I could say ‘eventually a boy I met was the ship that took me to the treasure and his family were the wind in our sails’ but that would be labouring an analogy. The important thing is that I got there.
September 2011. The trip was meticulously planned, everyone had a personal itinerary, each park had their designated days, meals had been booked months in advance, this was going to be perfect. And it was. My dreams started coming true from day one.
To get into the Magic Kingdom early we were going to have breakfast with Pooh and Friends. This is exactly what you think it is. When we arrived at the park gates it was deathly quiet, I remember a handful of us tourists all looking as though we were slightly in the wrong place and could be REMOVED FROM THE PARK FOREVER at any given point. The kind of excitement that sparks an irrational fear that it’ll all be taken away from you. It wasn’t, every was ok. We were directed into the park through a side gate by a cast member (pointing with three fingers, never one) and this is when I lost my shit.
Main Street USA spread before me. A pristine slice of fake America. If eyes could eat I’d have devoured the lot quicker than a 20 nugget share box . I’d watched documentaries of this street, seen too many videos of Walt walking right at this very spot, the parades! The characters! The exclusive toys and nick nacks that my consumeristic heart still gets palpitations for now. I knew his place. I belonged here. I ran. Literally ran between shop windows to see the displays. Daisy twirling on the spot, Aladdin hovering on his carpet (on a pole moving up and down) and a team of animatronic birds tweeting along to a song I couldn’t remember. It was just as perfect and plastic as I imagined.
What I hadn’t done was look to the bottom of the street. I knew what was there. What was hiding out of the corner of my eye. I needed this moment to be perfect. So I stopped in the middle of the street. I didn’t stop for long, just a beat, there were a lot of things to see and the gods had cursed me with only the standard two eyes. And as slowly as I could (not slowly at all) I looked up towards the castle.
I’d not dreamed of this moment. Dreaming’s far too passive. I’d actively constructed in my mind here and now. The smell of popcorn, hotdogs and suncream. The warmth from above starting to beat down on the pavement. A feeling of excitement that I thought would be like going to Alton Towers but, just, more. My imagination has limits, I was not prepared for this.
My pause became a step, the step a trot, the trot turned into a run, the run propelled me into a sprint. A David shaped blur.
I forgot about my boyfriend. I forgot about his family who were still stood at the entrance. I forgot to have a plan. I just needed to be so close to that castle that it filled my vision and became my world. This symbol of joy and escapism was just…there! Pictures from this moment are cringe inducing to show other people but a joy for me to look at alone.
If I’d been allowed right up to the castle I would have willed my arms into a length that would wrap around this mountain of fake stone and glass. I would have squeezed it until it crumbled, while the people inside died I would have whispered ‘Thank you’ and as the police gunned me down I would have told the castle ‘I love you.’
Instead I stood and gazed. I cry easily and nothing was going to stop this particular flood. I’d longed to be here for so long. This place. This castle. It’s not just kids films, musicals and cartoons. This wasn’t just a childhood dream come true. I felt like I was in the heart of something truly aspirational. A place where the best stories in the world come to life. In a place that strives to make everyone feel included. I was feeling too much and it was glorious.
One of the many things that Disney has taught us is that spells must come to an end and it’s usually a handsome prince that does it. My handsome prince didn’t break the spell with a kiss but by putting his hand around mine and saying the beautiful words:
‘It’s time for breakfast with Pooh.’