My sister and I decided to finally visit Walt Disney’s hometown. She had taken the day off work. We didn’t have a plan. I had a bad cold. I drove her car because driving is one of her anxiety things. “Let’s just go,” I said, and we went.
I wish it were further away, it was only a couple of hours.
I believe the reason for my suffering is that not one of my roommates took out the trash during the three weeks I was gone, and when I opened the lid, there were wriggling and rice-shaped bugs, and I had to, for the third time this summer, slowly yank up the bag, tie it, carry the trash can to the bathtub, pour in an environmentally insensitive amount of bleach, turn on the tap, let it sit, dump it, dry it, replace it, bleach the bathtub.
I actually felt okay while doing this. I had good rubber gloves. It was the hating that I had to do it that made me suffer.
In Marceline, Missouri, the Walt Disney Museum is in the former Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe train station. Every hour a train rattles the building as it breezes by. It is the only thing rattling in Marceline. The first thing we saw, driving in, was their incredibly sad, abandoned Sonic.
A small town without a Sonic, or a Dairy Queen, or a Tastee-Freeze.
The museum was well-made, well-written, well-kept, and after browsing the exhibits, as my sister was purchasing me a t-shirt because I was broke, the lady at the counter told us the Disney house was still there. “Someone lives in it,” she said.
“Wow, who lives in it?”
“I do,” another woman said. She’s the director of the museum. “I have quite a muse,” she said.
My t-shirt has an inside-baseball kind of Disney reference. You wouldn’t get it.
Walt Disney bought his parents a home in California, so they would be closer to him. His parents had struggled financially, moved all over hoping for a better shot at making it. They moved into the California house, he sent repairmen from the studio to work on the furnace, which his mother said was not working properly. They did not fix it. We know this because his mother died. Whose fault was it?
The furnace maker. The house seller. The studio workmen. The son.
My sister and I had ice cream at a place on Main Street. Disney thought of Marceline as his hometown, and imagined Marceline’s Main Street when he envisioned the Main Street at Disneyland. Actual Main Street in Marceline is like that of many small towns now, half abandoned. Insurance agents. Shops only sometimes open.
Did Disney have an idealized vision of this town? He returned many times, once holding a movie premiere there. Sure, he had an idealized vision I wish I could hold onto, as I get older, and idealized vision of something. A place in my head that is both safe and exciting, inspiring and warm. Don’t we still have room for idealized visions?
Here is the hagiography: he hung out under this tree. My sister and I kept calling it the “wishing tree,” but it is “the dreaming tree.” We are wishers more than dreamers? What is the difference?
You go see the tree. There is a sign.
Okay, it’s not that tree. That tree died.
It’s the second tree, but it was planted and blessed by a Disney descendant, and watered with water from Disneyland, so there.
As a child, trees were what I named. I have never loved mountains or rivers or the ocean, only trees. At the first home I remember, the tulip tree in the side yard. At my elementary school, Agatha the crabapple (yes, I named them), Mary Ann, next to the creek. There were river birches in the courtyard of my first apartment alone, and an oak behind my carriage house that was critical to my well-being.
Disney’s father did not think being an artist was a “real job.” They did not get along well.
A fortune teller told Disney he would die at age thirty-five. He didn’t, of course. According to some sources, Disney refused to attend funerals, or to speak about death at all. It’s hard to know about someone so famous, so mythologized. The mythologizer becomes the mythologized.
We walked up to the tree. Next to the special tree was a tree that had been cut down and chopped into firewood-sized pieces. We were like, I guess we should touch it and wish something. So we did.
Dreaming tree, not wishing tree, though. Dreaming is without agenda, wishing is directive. Dreaming tree.