It is not a matter of old forms nor new forms …. but what freely flows from the heart. — Anton Chekhov
We took Nick to Disneyland about a year ago, something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I confess to being a willing participant in the sentimentalization of the past. Get me on a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island.
Disneyland was not the way I remembered it. I was exhausted after our trip, and not in a good way. The whole experience seemed more choreographed, the selling more relentless and industrialized. Everywhere we turned there was something to buy, and that became Nick’s experience. He was in a giant store.
Of course, it’s not that Disneyland was ever anything else but the packaging of an idealized childhood. But we live in a time when childhood itself has lost innocence.
We went on the Matterhorn, the Haunted House, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We took a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island. It’s still my favorite place in the park, the only location where you can’t buy anything.
Nick had a great time, but we haven’t been back since. He’s never asked to go back. For Nick, Disneyland was nothing special. The whole world is Disneyland now, a series of virtual realities and packaged experiences, all of them monetized.
Lately I’ve been reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to Nick at bedtime. I think about the book in the context of Disneyland. Is it just another virtual reality–Mark Twain’s idealization of his own lost childhood?
When I ask questions like this, I know I’m thinking too much.
I recommend checking Tom Sawyer out of the library and reading it to your kid when he or she is nine or ten. It’s free. You’ll both split your sides laughing. And the characters are indelibly written. They flow freely from the author’s heart into yours.
Twain’s language took Nick some getting used to. The cadences are both leisurely and complex, distinctly not modern. But after a few chapters he was caught up in the spell.
He’s forgotten the toys he brought home from Disneyland. But I don’t think he’s going to forget our reading this book together.
. . .
You might also enjoy:
A Passage to Disneyland from Attachment Parenting Blog
Are Disney Princesses Evil? An interview with Peggy Orenstein
A short, silent film of Twain, made by Thomas Edison in 1909:
Express yourself! Any thoughts about Disneyland? I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.
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