19 July 2010

For pained and broken hearts

Sitting in one place by yourself for too long can have a profound impact upon an individual. In a place such as Walt Disney World, where I spent a good portion of my youth and contemplate often as an adult, you can begin to feel the sting of aging and of what has slipped away, or perhaps what is yet to come. A little over a year ago, I sat on a bench in the Fort Wilderness Campfire Show arena well before time for the show to start. I watched children playing in the open field as I had once done, and I watched the water, the Meadow Trading Post, and the trees beyond as dusk settled over my boyhood retreat.

I haven’t changed a word of what I penned that evening (though some of the poetic waxing I wince at now) and I’m not sure how much I wrote down that night still holds true, but I think the sentiment and the conclusion I reached remain.
An Open Letter on Walt Disney World…

I remember Skyleidoscope, the dragon boats, hang gliders, and fireworks when the sun was out. There were silver space outfits and Mickey wore a rainbow on his chest. There was a time when white spires towered over Tomorrowland and the WEDway, canoes filled the waterways alongside keelboats in Frontierland, and Dick Tracy protected Disney-MGM Studios.

I remember camping under the stars, even when it was hot and wet. Fort Wilderness came complete with trails behind your campsite covered with underbrush, and the remnants of the Fort Wilderness Railroad still lied buried along the roads and woods. You could along a Cyprus boardwalk and watch a seas serpent, turtle, and octopus light up the lake. Back then, Fort Wilderness was the only place to watch movies outdoors in the evenings. Classics like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, not Freaky Friday and High School Musical 2.

I remember when on-property meant the Contemporary, Fort Wilderness, or the Polynesian. I was born when Walt Disney World was only the Magic Kingdom.

I have suffered the losses of Horizons, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, World of Motion, Residential Street, Pirates of the Caribbean’s Armory shop, the Dreamfinder, Fantasy and Sorcery in the Sky, Discovery Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, Mission to Mars, Meet the Muppets, River Country, Dreamflight, and the Skyway, to simply name a few.

In my lifetime I have seen the Transportation and Ticket Center turn from a hub of the world to an annoying pass through. I have seen buses fill the once hallowed ground occupied by watercraft and monorails.

I used to wake up to the whistle of the Walt Disney World Railroad, and I still can.

I have lost a lot, but I have kept the memories close and anticipate my new adventures every day. Like Walt Disney, I hold onto the past, my past, and keep an eye to the future.

I am as much a part of Walt Disney World, as it is a part of me, and that shall never change.

--Ryan P. Wilson
28 April 2009
Fort Wilderness Campfire Sing-A-Long


Jason G. said...

Well said, Ryan. One of the things I've found to be a bit overwhelming in the blogosphere and Twitteria is the amazing amount of forced cynicism regarding Disney. Now, i can be just as guilty for bemoaning certain things (I'd be shocked if anyone on my Twitter feed wasn't fed up with my Via Napoli rants today!) but I temper it with bittersweet nostalgia. For the most part, I put things in proper perspective. That's the seesaw of nostalgia....the joy of past memories and the sadness that those days (and perhaps people and places) are gone.

I haven't been to Disney World since 2005 so my trip this year means so much to me. I'm a little jaded about certain things but there's so much to embrace. Perhaps the perspective of being away for so long helps, but i also think it's a lot of that same inspired optimism that Disney World itself help instill in me as a child in the '80s.

Zanna said...

Beautifully written, Ryan. I share so many of these memories, and while I wish I could share all of them with my children, I am content to let them create their own version, even if Mickey doesn't wear a rainbow spacesuit and Dreamfinder doesn't make corny jokes with them. I am sad for a time gone by, but find new memories at every turn.

Thank you for the wonderful post.

Unknown said...

Love it! Thanks for sharing this moment.

DizWiz said...

Thank you for writing this. I couldn't agree more.

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and support!

Jason, I've been known to bemoan myself once in a while, but as long as we keep the important pieces in perspective we are able to shrug off a lot.

Zanna, I love the idea of 'newcomers' being able to make their own memories. Not having come to the WDW bug until an adult, it is amazing for me to watch my wife find her own memories as well.