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My great-grandmother told me the story of Disneyland's grand opening in 1955. For months, the family waited with great anticipation, especially my aunt, who was four years old at the time. Her dream was to visit Sleeping Beauty's Castle. For at least a week leading up to the visit, half of my aunt's young vocabulary was the string of words "Sleeping Beauty's Castle" repeated over and over. She said it when she went to sleep, and first thing when she woke up, and when the day finally arrived, she could think of nothing else.
After several visits to the castle during the day, Grandma promissed Aunt Leslie one more visit before they left, and so that is where the family met up at darkfall. And then, as they joined the crowds leaving, my aunt fell onto the pavement, and grabbed a pole, and wouldn't budge. She cried unconsolably, "Sleeping Beauty's Castle... Sleeping Beauty's Castle!" Grandma told her that they would come back soon to visit Sleeping Beauty's Castle again, but the tears were endless. Grandma showed her the sourvenier booklet with a picture of the castle, but Leslie cried, "no mama, sleep in beauty's castle. Sleep IN beauty's castle."
So, when I look at Disney's castle on the 50th anniversary of my family's first visit to the park, I think about climbing to the top and finding a nesting spot in the rafters so that I could fulfull my aunt's dream of sleeping in beauty's castle. And I remember once, when I got pretty close to that dream by being invited to attend the Princess breakfast high up in Cinderella's castle at Disneyworld.
Every family that visits Disneyland has a story to tell. After my last trip, I visited grandma, who now has daughters, and grand daughters, and great grand daughters and even one great great grand daughter to share this magical part of our family history with. In many ways, Disneyland is the one constant in Southern California, always fresh and new and clean, like it was when it first opened, and always changing and yet the same. The same trains have circled the park for 50 years, enough track time to circle the globe 200 times. Familiar faces and sounds are everywhere.
In my family, we go to Disneyland when our daughters turn four years old. All of our trips in recent years were to celebrate this magical year for Megan and Riley and Lauren and Chelsea and many others, and when I look into their big bright eyes as they enter the park, I see Aunt Leslie, who has since passed, but who's spirit lives in this magical place and in the dreams of all the children who come hoping to "sleep in beauty's castle."