A few summers ago, I took my kids to Disneyland.
Nearing Cinderella’s castle, my daughter Julia (four-years-old at the time) spotted Cinderella emerging from wherever it is the character actors hide at Disneyland.
Julia ran toward her like she had found the Messiah. Eyes wide, arms wider, jaw dropped.
She crashed into Cinderella’s leg like a human missile.
Cinderella was knocked off stride.
Recovering her balance, Cinderella looked down at Julia, who was now hugging her leg. Holding on to it for dear life, really.
Cinderella reached down and hugged Julia with both arms.
It was one of the sweetest things I had ever seen. And judging by the hushed “awww” that swept through the crowd, it was one of the sweetest things they had ever seen too.
Then I did something I still can’t explain.
I tried to hug Cinderella.
A whole bunch of things then happened in quick succession that did not happen when my four-year-old tried to hug her.
First, there was the look of pain on Cinderella’s face, like the one on Oswald when he was shot by Ruby. Then there were Cinderella’s lightning-quick reflexes, which ensured my “hug” consisted of nothing more than my right hand grazing her back. And then there was her handler, who the best I can figure dropped from a tree to put himself between me and the princess.
All I can say about my actions that day is that I was caught up in the magic of Disneyland.
But from the looks on the faces in the crowd, the moment was anything but magical. You’d have thought I had wrestled Mickey Mouse to the ground and pulled off his mouse head.
Julia herself said nothing. We just continued on our day together.
And later that day, we spotted Pocahontas. Julia ran toward her even faster than she had Cinderella, which I thought was a little strange because I knew Cinderella meant more to her.
It was so fast, in fact, I couldn’t keep up.
Which I then realized was the point.
Four-year-olds can be very smart.