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Margaret's Musings: Mickey and Me

It is hard to tell when exactly this affair of over 50 years started. This year, the land where we met is celebrating its founding after 55 years. The 'government' runs smoothly, cleanliness is number one and no one is privy to the inner workings, even the public restrooms are discreet and nearly invisible.

New Year's Eve weekend we had a family reunion of sorts. One of the activities was to visit this far off land. For nearly 13 hours we pounded the pavement, explored exotic food and were regaled with Christmas carols and decorations and, along the way, visited the Caribbean, an Asian jungle and traveled through space.

As an added benefit we had the newest member of our clan with us, Jacob, age two.

We are certain that he will not regale his children with recollections of his first trip to this land because he won't remember it. But the rest of us will never forget his joyful expressions and squeals of glee as he sailed through the air with Peter Pan or as he stood at the safety rail dancing along with characters from around the world.

Yup, we went to Disneyland, the 85-acre amusement park which opened for business in July 17, 1955. My first visit was in 1957 when we traveled by train to Los Angeles because my cousin Karen was born. My mother's brother Serafino, who changed his name to Bill as soon as he came of age, settled in southern California after being stationed in Alaska while in the Army Air Corps. He vowed never to return to the Midwest and kept his promise except for an occasionally family visit or business trip which was usually in the summer. He found the promised land, completed college, married and settled into life in California.

For the four of us Midwestern land-locked nieces and nephews, it meant that we had a reason to visit the Golden State occasionally. The three oldest of us, traveled there for our sixteenth birthdays which mean it was our first time on a plane and traveling alone. Whenever we went to California first by train, by car and then by plane, a trip to DISNEYLAND was always included.

January 3, three of us, along with other family members, trooped through nearly every inch of the park. By the end of 12 hours, my legs and feet could barely move forward. For us it was a chance to relive our childhood, since many of the rides we took were part of the original park: Dumbo, Autopia, Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Peter Pan's Flight, Story Book Lane Canal Boats and King Arthur Carousel. Ironically even though we had each visited the land in our youth, none of us had ever been there together.

In the years since it opened over 450 million visitors have passed through its gates in Anaheim, Calif.

The park cost 17.5 million dollars to build and opened with 18 attractions. Official general admission was one dollar and costs of attractions ranged from 10 cents to 35 cents. It opened just one year after construction began.

My fascination with Disney, and specifically his parks, probably started back in 1957 after my first trip. I decorated my first bathroom in Disney-themed décor and hung a Minnie Mouse marionette in the corner. It follows then that my first solo adult vacation was to none other than Disney World. Even today, Mickey is apparent on the Christmas tree and in a select corner of the house. It is perhaps the mouse, Mickey that is, that makes me smile all these years later.

In the years since, I have encountered Mickey all over the world, embedded in a terrazzo floor in Shanghai, carved on a wooden plaque riding a motor scooter in Viet Nam and the subject of dinner conversation with complete strangers in England.

Happy 55th birthday to DISNEYLAND. May you continue to create memories for young and old alike for many years to come.