Friday, December 26, 2008

Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth?

I grew up in the "shadow" of Disneyland. It was a very pleasant shadow, maybe more of a shine or glow, but none-the-less a dominant feature of my youth.

Becoming a resident of Anaheim in '58, Disneyland was only three years old at the time. A friend of mine, who also grew up in Anaheim, gets kidded by his teenage children who say, "Dad, you're older than Disneyland!" Hmmm... I am too. But I digress...

As a youngster during the summer evenings, my family and I would often venture outside at 9 pm each evening to watch the Disneyland firework show illuminate the night sky. We were that close. My mom worked there a bit, and later so did I. Many of my friends and neighbors worked there at various times.

Also during the summer, my family usually played host to one of my mom's 11 siblings and their families. I was a willing, unofficial tour-guide at the Magic Kingdom to many a cousin.

I lived in a sub-division of 1950's homes that included a decorative tile on the front porch that said, "Enchanted Homes." I dreamed of running away to live on Tom Sawyer's Island. After all, Disneyland bills itself as the Happiest Place on Earth.

During my college years I traveled in more than 45 of the United States. This saga was in part my attempt to garner a world-view that didn't take on an artificial afterglow from Disneyland. What was life outside of the OC really like? I wanted to know. Now I do.

I learned that it's not so much the place as it is the person. I learned, "Where ever you go, there you are!" Iowa, California, Montana, Taiwan, or England: it's not so much about destination as it is about attitude.

So what was the catalyst for today's "rant"? My daughter and her family are in town visiting from their home in Illinois, and my sister (a lover of Disneyland) has financed a day at the Park for the four of them. My daughter and her husband have two children: 5 and 3 years old -- prime ages for the wonder of Disneyland.

But I wonder, if Disneyland were the "Happiest Place on Earth" what does that leave for the rest of us? Disappointment? Nah... it leaves reality. It leaves a world full of true wonders and true delights where we are not entertained, but participating, exploring, contributing, and bumbling along. Life isn't perfect. (This is earth, Heaven is later.)

I received a Christmas card from my mom which hinted at the real Christmas: "Family, holidays -- full, rich complicated, beautiful." Real life is more complicated than Disneyland, yet still full, rich, and beautiful.

Disney is a nice escape, but you can't live there.

I've grown up, but ironically I still live where I can see and hear the Disneyland fireworks. They go off at 9:35 now-a-days.

As an American, middle-class, college-educated, white male, some might say my life is a bit Disney-esque. But life is what you make it. I grew up in the glow of Disneyland because my parents "immigrated" (from Iowa and New York). They eventually moved back to Iowa, but I remain. Why? Because it's not where you live, but how you live that really matters. (Besides, there are worse places to live. I like it here.)

(More pictures from Palm Springs Farmers' Market last week.)


  1. Great entry! I too grew up with Disneyland, living in GG, right off Harbor and Chapman! My oldest would NOT got to sleep at night until the DL fireworks display was over each night! It's a fond memory of mine! In high school we threw a big fit that our Grad Night was going to be a DL, because we lived next door to it and couldn't appreciate it. So, the school showed us and cancelled our grad night! They showed us! LOL! Hope you had a great Christmas and that your family has a wonderful and wonder-filled day at the Happiest Place on Earth! Blessings, Lisa

  2. Great post.

    "Where ever you go, there you are/ It's not about a destination, but an attitude."

    I have a saying that complements these two (and vice versa): "Life is about a Journey, not a Destination"
    Or more plainly: "The Journey IS the Destination"

    That spills over into my view of Heaven. Sure, there's the full realization of Heaven that's not yet here, but as a Follower of Christ, we're called to bring Heaven/redemption everywhere we go.

    Al that just keeps me in check and straightens my perspective.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Have you ever read 'Blue Highways' by William Least-Heat Moon? We explored exerpts in high school and now and then I take another small chunk of out his massive journey in my down time. You should look into it, if you haven't yet.

    (He taught and still lives in my college town, and I had the pleasure of ringing him out a few times when I worked at the corner drugstore. Pretty neat)

    In other news, I adore fireworks. To have grown up being able to see a whole show every night would have been...heaven. :)