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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Every little boy's dream

A few years before we left the US, Zahava and I took Ariella and Gilad (Yonah was still a few years in the future) to Disney World. 

At the time Ariella was 4, the perfect age to experience Disney... but I have clear recollection that at 2 years old it was probably a year too early to have brought Gilad.  Everywhere we went in the park Gilad was confronted by these giant Disney characters... and nearly peed himself in terror every single time.  Every picture we have of the kids in close proximity to one of these jolly, roving characters shows Gilad...

a) ... in tears (i.e. screaming in terror)
b) ... trying to run away (and being restrained by his shirt collar)
c) ... trying to climb back into his mother's womb

Like most parents on their first family trip to Disney, we assumed that Gilad would eventually warm up to the jovial giants and blissfully made reservations for one of those 'theme breakfasts'... you know, the ones where you get to eat a so-so breakfast (cold cereal and hard boiled eggs for us kosher folks) with a bunch of rollicking Disney folk for roughly the price of a mortgage payment.

For the record:  Bad idea.  I think Gilad's screams may have even emotionally scarred the other children present.

Once we'd weathered that particular storm, Zahava and I resigned ourselves to taking the kids on rides and giving the characters a wide berth. 

While this strategy was fine in theory, it was terribly unfair to Ariella who was at the perfect age to accept everything she saw as magically real.  For example, one evening we were seated outside the castle waiting for the fireworks to begin when Ariella pointed excitedly up at the highest window of the castle's tower.  A small light had appeared there, and as a hush fell over the crowd, Tinkerbell 'flew' from the window and descended gracefully... right over our heads. 

The reverent silence was broken by Ariella yelling, "See, I told you she was real!"

This sort of convinced us that despite Gilad's terror of the characters, we'd have to find some way to let Ariella enjoy the Disney experience as much as possible.  The perfect opportunity finally presented itself the next afternoon in the form of a scheduled 'character photo op' with Princess Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White... three of the least threatening members of the Disney pantheon.

We arrived rather late and were among the last to be allowed into the crowded room before they closed and locked the doors.  We weren't in any particular hurry, but it was a tad disheartening to see the long lines leading up to the front of the hall where each of the characters was patiently posing for pictures with the eager children.  But having no choice, we took our place at the end of one of the lines and settled in for a good long wait.

It may be that Gilad was already getting in touch with his inner Israeli ('Line?  What line?'), or simply that the real-life female characters were less threatening than their macro-cephalic Disney cohorts ('the ones with people in their bellies'), but whatever the reason, Gilad suddenly broke away from us and took off towards the front of the room... making a beeline directly for Snow White.  To our horror he actually shoved a kid out of the way in order to stand directly in front of her.

Needless to say, we were mortified and ran up to reclaim our runaway 2 year old before an open revolt erupted among the other parents and kids.  But before we could reach him, Snow white took charge of the situation.  She drew herself up to her full height, placed her hands on her hips, and while fixing Gilad with a stern glare said, "You know, all these other children have been patiently waiting their turn!"

Gilad seemed momentarily taken aback at being gently scolded and stood there in shocked silence.  We were just about to pull the little law-breaker back to his place in line when he looked up into her brown eyes and exclaimed, "But 'no White... I wuv you!"

Immediately Snow White's frosty demeanor thawed and she smiled down at him.  Princess Aurora and Cinderella, having observed the whole exchange, also beamed at our little boy.. and everyone within earshot had a good chuckle.  We wanted to take advantage of the momentary good will to bring Gilad back to the end of the line but Snow White quietly told us simply to stand off to the side and wait for everyone else to finish.

Once all the other families had exited we were left alone with the three beautiful young women playing the Disney Characters.

As if by prearrangement, all three of them gathered around Gilad and began giving him kisses all over his smiling face.  By the time they'd finished he was blushing crimson and was covered from chin to hairline and from ear to ear with lipstick marks.

Lest anyone think that Ariella got short shrift, the characters also spent considerable time fussing over her and making her feel like a princess herself. 

But to this day, when I think about that trip to Disney, my most vivid memory (and probably Gilad's as well) is of Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White quite literally covering Gilad's face in warm kisses... every little boy's dream.

No_white

Posted by David Bogner on February 5, 2008 | Permalink

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I can NOT believe that trip was 10 years ago!

[sigh]

...but it was! Do you realize that Yonah is aready 2 years older than Gili was when we took that trip?!

I remember sooooooo much about that trip! It was so much fun! We ran into the Lloyds at (coincidentally!) the It's a Small World ride!

I also remember experiencing the magic of Disney's incredible customer service that trip! Our last night we allowed the kids to each pick out one stuffed animal. Ariella, who was addicted at the time to The Lion King, chose a stuffed baby Simba. Gilad, whose video-du-fave was Dumbo chose a stuffed baby Dumbo. Sadly, within seconds of leaving the gift shop (it was late at night and raining heavily), Gilad managed to find a spot in the parking lot slicked with oil and ... of course!... managed to drop Dumbo squarely into the muck....

As his face began to crumple, you snatched Dumbo and ran back into the shop to ask them for some paper toweling to absorb some of the damage....

I remember being stunned to see you return with a brand new! Dumbo! As you presented the new toy to Gilad you whispered in my ear "...the guy at the register said 'This simply will not do! This is the MAGIC Kingdom, the place where your dreams really do come true!'"

You know... Yonah now plays with both Simba and Dumbo! And Dumbo still looks like new!

Posted by: zahava | Feb 5, 2008 12:34:45 PM

You might like this story then:

http://www.basicinstructions.net/news/2007/10/these-things-happen.html

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Feb 5, 2008 12:47:38 PM

I still remember a few things from my trip to Disney World when I was 6 years old. (Oy, 32 years ago???) We went on the Mad Hatter's tea cup ride and spun and spun and spun until my poor mother turned green. We hit Sea World on my brother's fifth birthday, and he got to ride in the Bat Boat during one of the live shows. Hopefully we'll get a few good (non-screaming) memories the summer of '09. My folks want to take my kids to Disney World then. (they even said they'd take me and my wife too! ;-) )

Posted by: JDMDad | Feb 5, 2008 2:28:54 PM

How sweet. Of course...I think that means it's well past time for Yonah to have his Disney WORLD trip.

Posted by: orieyenta | Feb 5, 2008 3:23:45 PM

I was in Disneyland at age 2 over, ahem, 40 years ago. Darn I'm almost as old as the dirt.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Feb 5, 2008 4:08:22 PM

Awwwww.

That's an important lesson for the young Gilad. Honest spontaneous declarations of affection frequently melt princesses.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 5, 2008 4:33:36 PM

Awwww - so sweet!

We never made it to Disney, but we do have season tickets to Sesame Place (a mere half-hour to our south). It does take the littlest ones some time to get used to all the giant Ernies and Berts and Big Birds and Cookie Monsters shambling around. Elmo is usually the ice-breaker. And, I must say, Oscar the Grouch is much, much nicer in person. :)

Posted by: psachya | Feb 5, 2008 4:41:18 PM

Aliza and I went to Disney World for our honeymoon. I guess we were old enough not to be scared by the characters....

In the "I'm begining to feel old" category, that was 13 years ago!

Posted by: Aharon | Feb 5, 2008 4:59:06 PM

Quietus Leo: please don't take this the wrong way, but:
shut. the. [email protected]@p. up!

We are the same darn age! Methuselah we ain't....

[bolts for the medicine chest to liberally reapply moisturizer and swallow a handful of antioxidant vitamins]

Sheesh!

Posted by: zahava | Feb 5, 2008 5:43:03 PM

I was in Disneyland at age 2 over, ahem, 40 years ago.

You make me feel better. My first trip to Disneyland was only 36 years ago. Actually it might be 37, not that it matter it is still less than 40. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Feb 5, 2008 6:06:46 PM

... and he's STILL a charmer! I have a pic of the 4 of you from that trip! Very memorable!

Posted by: val | Feb 5, 2008 6:25:04 PM

So sweet :)

Posted by: SaraK | Feb 5, 2008 7:11:18 PM

We kind of had the same problem with our youngest. We were in Disney in 2003 and he was 4 years old and really scared of all those carachters. We all remember the parade at Animal Kingdom when the Chipmunk approached the kids and Ariel just kicked him (or her?) in the lower section (if you know what I mean).
Now that we live in Florida, we went to Disney two weeks ago, and even though he is almost 9, he was not so thrilled about the idea of posing for pictures with some carachters.
For the record: No chipmunk was hurt this time :)

Posted by: David S. | Feb 5, 2008 9:00:31 PM

We were in Disney with the kids about 5 years ago and we saw three of the evil charachters posing for pictures and signing autographs. We saw she sighned Meitals book "l'Meital Shalom. Hamalka" (yes, in Hebrew). And bent down and said to Meital "ani lo ra'ah be'emet".

Posted by: Chedva | Feb 5, 2008 9:55:27 PM

We also did our honeymoon in Disney. Good times, Good times.

Posted by: Baila | Feb 5, 2008 11:18:01 PM

We're at that stage now with a daughter who's 4 1/2 and a son who is 2 and a bit (plus a baby, but he's just getting into the swing of things). More than the adorably sweet Disney details, what resonates with me so much here is the dichotomy between being "fair" to multiple ages of kids - it is such a different experience for my son to be 2 as the second than it was for my daughter. There are things we shlep him to, or allow him, that are so different simply because we have to take her wants into consideration as well.

"But 'no White... I wuv you!" Totally made my heart melt! Two-year-olds are so uninhibited and straight-forward, without the shtick that comes a year or two later. I love it!

Posted by: RaggedyMom | Feb 6, 2008 5:40:35 AM

zahava... Well honey, now that you're well into your 50s it's easy to lose track of time. ;-)

Dave (Balashon)... Thanks, I'm always curious to hear stories from the perspective of those behind the costumes.

JDMDad... I'm the one in the family that gets green on the spinning rides.

orieyenta... Let's just get through Gilad's Bar Mitzvah this year and then we'll see if we can afford clothes and food, much less a trip abroad. :-)

QuietusLeo... If you're 42 and almost as old as dirt... then I guess that makes me... dirt. :-)

Doctor Bean... I'm actually a little shocked that nobody pointed out the obvious... that being smothered in kisses by three beautiful young women is also every big boy's dream. :-)

psachya... We never made it to Sesame Place. Not too far from my the family compound in CT so maybe next trip. Thanks for the tip.

Aharon... Puleeze! I have shoes older than your marriage! :-)

Jack... I can still remember the excitement of seeing the Matterhorn from the highway the first time I went to Disneyland.

val... Yes, but now that he is almost a teenager, the girls still want to kiss him, but for other reasons than just cuteness. :-)

SaraK... Thanks. I'm glad people don't mind my using treppenwitz as a repository for my favorite memories.

David S. ... That's funny. Like 'no chipmunks were harmed in the making of this memory'. :-)

Chedva... Weird. I thought all Disney employees were Utah, Nebraska and Kansas residents that were frozen in 1952 and thawed out as needed.

Baila... I can almost hear your nostalgic sigh from here. :-)

RaggedyMom... Yeah, and by the third kid we pretty much just give them bus fare and tell them not to let the little one buy beer. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 6, 2008 7:33:43 AM

What a cute story and what a great memory to have? I wonder if your son has any recollection of it beyond the pictures?

That's one of the problems I find with having kids of varying ages and stages - what is suitable for some isn't suitable for others.

Posted by: frumhouse | Feb 6, 2008 4:42:26 PM

Actually, Sesame Place is just north of Philadelphia, so it's a bit of a shlep from Connecticut. We live in central Jersey, so season tickets made sense for us.

Posted by: psachya | Feb 6, 2008 5:01:25 PM

That is so adorable.

Posted by: jaime | Feb 6, 2008 6:09:08 PM

Very sweet story!

Posted by: Gila | Feb 6, 2008 11:20:06 PM

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