It invites you in with a simplistic phantasmagoria of the senses, the realm between fantasy and reality. I remember sitting on the smooth stone of the street, from age one, to ages five and eight, the luxurious utopia like a marked point on a wall, announcing my age and height with a pen stroke, the ritual parents seem to do to mark their children’s growth. Disney World was my childhood, from waking up early in the morning to drive into the sunrise, the cotton candy pink and tangerine oranges of the sun warming my cheeks in my car seat, the ritual Mom created of shouting at the top of our lungs when we saw the Disney sign. One walks in with intentions to unwind, past the business of the crowds, which possess other blushing families, young children being towed around to the endless amount of rides and shows, never enough time to sit unless it is to eat, and then there you have so many options, there is no time to choose, and then you lose track of time, and by then it is far too late to eat, the next show is starting, so one swiftly clutches their tots into their hands and briskly walks off to the designated show, only to start the whole process over later for rides and parades. Colors are spat out at you from the enormous amount of candy stores and ice cream parlors and shops, which all sell the same Mickey Mouse dolls and Cinderella dresses, yet young children can be seen with a doll in one hand and begging for an identical doll at an identical store because the irresistibility of the scene was too much, especially for young eyes, where fun and laughter lives and breathes, the components that make up the magical place of Disney. Tinker toy music twirls and boogies into the sweet, euphoric air that seems to envelop the entire world, because it is a world, a world within a world where happiness is bred and squeezed out into tiny compartments of categories for all ages to enjoy.
Built and opened in the 1970s, it still tastes of the picturesque view Walt Disney grew up in. Flashbacks I have on Main Street, the most popular area within Disney World, depict me with browned cheeks from the sweltering summer sun with Minnie Mouse ears adorning my head—I would have had a fit if my parents said no—and sitting down in the middle of the street with my family. No cars were coming or would ever come, because we were in a town, Walt’s town, but it was frozen in time, a picture we were living and sitting in; he had captured his home town perfectly, the common Victorian roofs of the 1950s protruding out into the square we sat in, the image of the castle of Cinderella caressing our backs as we viewed Main Street. Porticoed porches adorned rocking chairs and colonial style doors, white columns with abacuses and elaborate capitals trimming the pastel pink and robin’s egg blue, mustard yellow and creamy ivory stuccos that were not accurate of the 1950s but were accurate of the vision Walt had for the world within his mind. When going inside the façade that made up Main Street, the houses revealing shops with souvenirs and sweets, one must look past the bright colors of the walls and the incessant amounts of large mice with bulbous eyes and a caked smile, the loyal symbol of Disney. It is clear that Walt stuck to the theme of his hometown, adding home furniture popular to the era in skewed places, giving the shops a homey look. There were no stairs leading to the second floor, but this did not mean there was not one. I remember being little, lifted high on my father’s shoulders, peeking into the windows of Main Street, which stored a fascia of vacant bedrooms, as if they were actual houses. The fire station of Walt’s childhood, Main Street Bakery, and a working barber shop lovingly called The Harmony Barber Shop where one can pay for a haircut are some of the many stores smeared onto the sidewalks. Tasteful trolleys and candied horse drawn carriages flow through the streets, careful of children at play. Main Street, my street. Walt and I’s childhoods seemed to pirouette into the ecstatic and exhilarating combination of two eras, one stationed permanently in time and the other just visiting for a moment.
I remember the gumminess I always felt between my teeth at this time, because Main Street was always our last stop, after all of the rides rode twice or thrice, our eyes worn out from the shows, tummies filled with the delightful food and aching with the laughter Disney seemed to bring to every child; the gooeyness in my mouth was from the purchase of our favorite candies at the Bakery; mine was a bright red candy apple, the rest of my family’s a Mickey Mouse shaped doughnut or pastry. The day ended with fireworks skewering the sky, my eyes drooping with content, my tongue scraping the last bits of candied apple from in between my teeth. Mickey came out of his house around the corner to welcome the children and see them off, as the park was closing. Children from all over, including me, dropped our dolls and our toys and our cotton candy or lollipops, rushing into his arms, our love for him unbinding and melting with loyalty. Parents watched on, their children safe, our faces beaming. Smiles seemed to be an unspoken rule of this world, but it was a rule gladly followed. It was a family reunion of sorts, everyone together if just for a moment in the stickiness of the summer, the day drifting into a blanket of night, sharing a memory forever embedded in our hearts. Walt Disney may have missed his childhood, working hard to recreate it from scratch, like a cake with a new and improved recipe. But by doing so, he created a childhood for us all to remember, of joyous nostalgia for a place we’d like to call home, a world of recollections and memoirs, a celebration of the meaning of life and happiness, and the simplicity of the recipe for a smile.