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All aboard Mickey's roller coaster of emotions

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By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 16, 2002

There are parents who are anti-Disney World. These may be divided into two groups.

The first group stands on principle. They refuse to buy into the Great Corporate Kidfest. This is a noble enterprise but probably eventually doomed.

The second group resists Disney World on more practical grounds. They are tired. It is enough of a major undertaking that they have borne, raised, clothed, fed, educated and perhaps entertained their offspring. Must they also haul them across the state or nation to see Mickey Mouse? They avoid the subject.

Yet the world also is populated with aunts, uncles, grandparents and godparents, and some of us happen to live in Florida. On occasion, out of a spirit of generosity, we look at each other, express our longing to see the faraway child, and shrug, "Well, how tough can it be?" We envision ourselves as in a TV commercial, the nuclear three of us, the child beaming at Mickey Mouse.

In reality, the transition from not having a 3-year-old to having one is somewhat jarring. Let us skip a longer treatise by saying, in general, they are piercingly smart, sometimes even smarter than adults, but, still a little short in the delayed-gratification department. By this I mean, there are no options between wanting something right... NOW... and brutal, black disappointment in the cruelty of this tragic world, expressed at the highest volume.

Disney World is a marvel of engineering. Upon our arrival in the morning we find ourselves among a steady parade of cars, expertly guided to uncontested parking spaces. As the throng moves to board the trams, I have the sudden feeling that the Last Judgment will feel like this, except maybe with escalators.

Briefly there is frustration at the trams. They arrive constantly. Our party ranges from the aforementioned 3-year-old to the child's great-grandmother. Despite being in the front of the line, we simply cannot cross the few feet in time to beat the rush. We miss one, then two. Panic begins to set in. There is the sudden, irrational vision of spending the day on the hot asphalt right there in Pluto 25, bereft of water, nourishment or shade. Primal instincts emerge and at the next tram I find myself physically blocking rival males while barking like a jumpmaster in the 82nd Airborne to the rest of my party: "Go! Go! Go!"

We traverse Main Street USA and arrive at the castle, amazingly enough, in time for the live show. Sure enough, here they come, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin and the Genie, and Peter Pan and Captain Hook, and Goofy and Minnie and Pluto, with the big buildup, the music rising, and, oh help me, I am a sucker after all, I do feel a chill in my spine when he comes running out in the center and the aforementioned 3-year-old, and thousands around me, scream as one: MICK-EEEEE!!!!

Later, several alternating rounds of joy and crying later, after Toon Village and Futureworld and Adventureland, weak and dehydrated, we try to sneak our way into a circuitous exit. She understands this at once and begins to cry, because, although we stood in line to meet Mickey, whom she hugged reverently, she has not seen Minnie except on stage. The tragedy is too much to bear.

Then: A miracle. Mickey and Minnie are walking toward us hand-in-hand. The child yelps with joy, bounds from her stroller and hugs Minnie. They stride on and she runs after them desperately, unable to keep up. I act instantly and scoop her up. We fall in, leaving everyone else behind, the girl and me, keeping pace with these impossibly fast characters, basking in the reflected glow of the cries of joy and recognition that greet them everywhere. I know that in a short while we will turn around, and once again there will be despair, but for now, for this minute, for this short while, all is glory.

* * *

Dear friends:

I'm going to pinch-hit in a different job at the newspaper for a few weeks. That means I'll see you back in this space in October. (For those who politely or not-so-politely called me an idiot for Wednesday's column, no, this does not mean the editors finally came to their senses. Not yet, anyway.)

-- You can reach Howard Troxler at (727) 893-8505 or at

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