disneylandAfter an entire month of being imprisoned with our baby, Henry wanted to arrange an outing–something totally new and exciting!–for me and Anelise. He asked, “What are the most ‘desirable’ places for foreigners to visit in Southern California?” The popular destinations were discussed: Disneyland, Hollywood, Universal Studios, and so forth. Henry and I, the two adults, didn’t care where we went. Our main concern was what Anelise would want most. “Would you like to go to DISNEYLAND?” we asked her, heavily stressing the last word. Anelise nodded excitedly and smiled wide, exposing the gap where her two front teeth used to be. However, I was certain she would have responded this way to anything we offered. This five-year-old girl, so young yet so mature, never asked or begged us for anything. We presented her with the option we assumed all kids would want: Disneyland. There was no option fancier than this one for a kid.

“No problem! Let me take care of Angela, so you can all enjoy your day!” my sister-in-law Sue offered generously. I was out of shape and, embarrassingly, still had to wear my maternity clothing. It was early autumn, and the sun’s rays were so sharp the whole world looked bright and unreal.

Our Camry launched nervously onto the freeway and lurched across multiple lanes. Somewhere between the web-like intersections and layered freeway overpasses, I began to feel dizzy and frightened. Our new car, carried along in a stream of confident, speeding peers, was extremely timid. I held my breath whenever a big truck rumbled thunderously past us. “They could fall over and crush us at any time!” a fearful voice screamed silently in my mind.

Finally, the torture was over. There we were. Majestic palm trees, lined up in rows, guarded a gigantic entrance where a billboard read, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Our jaws dropped upon seeing the vast, ocean-like parking lot filled with cars. “On this big continent, everything is HUGE!” I sighed. After paying the admission fee–$62 for two adults and $25.50 for one child–I sighed again, “And expensive!” (Fun fact: today’s prices are $92 for an adult and $86 for a kid–three times more!)

Disneyland was no doubt an imaginative construct. The first thing we saw were colorful castles and village cottages that spoke loudly of a different time and place. Turrets, teeth-like battlements, and colorful banners and garlands decorated each castle. This is a scene I’d seen many times. Anelise and her friends scribbled such castles in their leisure, and I had done the same as a child. This was the fairy tale backdrop for stories where heroic princes save the lives of beautiful but unfortunate princesses and declare their “happily ever after.” I was one of many eastern children who grew up with these popular western fairy tales. The persistence and influence of these tales had survived generations. However, this influence, which relied largely on unrealistic elements to hook its child-audience, seemed lame to me.

I vividly remember that as a child I was so bored by Disney animated movies that I fell asleep while watching Snow White and Cinderella. In the years where owning a TV was rare, herds of children used to squeeze into electronics stores or a neighbor’s house just to steal a glimpse of an American cartoon. I, on the other hand, loathed the mouse in Tom & Jerry, who cruelly chased the poor Tom cat around and beat it up. I sniffed through Popeye the Sailor Man and strongly disliked all three main characters. I hated that Popeye couldn’t live without his can of spinach; that Bluto was nothing but a bully; and that Olive, with her screeching voice, was unpleasantly naive and fickle.

Standing in the middle of Disneyland, as my childhood memories mixed with the invented reality before me, I thought, “Oh, it’s okay! I was just too serious as a kid!” All around me, adults were smiling and kids were jumping! Everyone seemed happy. Little Anelise held my hand tightly, looking here and there with her eyes squinted. This wonderland was a little too overwhelming for her, I could tell. I wasn’t exactly sure how she really felt, though, so I said (to encourage her or myself), “Here we are in the happiest place on Earth!” I figured that to feel “real” in this world, one had to drop one’s realistic perspective and let imagination lead the way.

Visitors wore casual summer outfits. There was a general uniform of t-shirts, shorts, and sandals, but these came in a diversity of designs. People with all different traits passed by each other, shoulders brushing past shoulders, all speaking languages of their own. Heads, including ours, turned busily, navigating their way through the park’s many signs. Legs moved just as busily, taking its owners to their targeted destinations. We bumped into many cartoon characters: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy. These larger-than-life figures with their forever-smiling faces patrolled the park while waving to or shaking hands with people. They posed for photographs with the most gleeful of gestures besides tourists young and old. These lively moving elements attracted more of my attention than the rides and shops.

The lines were all long. Our patience was put to the test as tired legs propped up bodies under the harsh heat. It was really impressive to see people standing in long lines with such good manners. We all agreed that a civilized society was well-presented here. Nowadays, Taipei is world-famous for the courteousness people exhibit while taking public transit. But thirty years ago when I was living in that crowded city, the experience of getting on a bus as the crowd pushed against you was frightening. The worst experience was when my purse was stolen by a pickpocket. I was on the bus, heading to the first wedding among my group of college friends, and in the purse was red envelope money that I had saved from my unstable tutoring job. It was purely by accident that the orderly lines at Disneyland would remind me of a painful scene from my past as a poor student.

My trouble involving frequent restroom visits added more lines to the overall experience. And they had another effect: they worried Anelise so much that she recently revealed that she remembers them even now. She confessed, “I was scared that you had become too old because when I asked daddy why you went to the restroom too much, he said that it was because you’re old now.”

We might have taken more rides, but these are the ones I remember now. There was the flying Dumbo ride and the swirling tea cup ride, which made Anelise very scared due to their height and speed, respectively. Then there was the charming choo-choo train that drove Anelise’s fear away. My favorite ride was It’s a Small World. We got into a small cart and were sent through a dark tunnel. Many cute little people from all over the world dressed in the clothes of their culture waved at us from their flowery gardens. The voices of cheerful, sweet children sang as a choir:

It’s a world of laughter and a world of tears.
It’s a world of hope and a world of fears.
There’s so much that we share
that it’s time we’re aware
it’s a small world after all.
There is just one moon,
and one golden sun,
and a smile means friendship to everyone.
Though the mountains divide,
and the oceans are wide,
it’s a small world after all.

As a child I sang this song in a choir competition. It was so familiar to me that I could sing along to it in Chinese. Listening to this world-famous song in its birthplace was thrilling. “Do you think it’s a small world here?” I asked Anelise as I gave her a squeeze. She happily nodded with a big grin on her face.

The sun lost its power and we, too, were very tired. It was time to go home. Like a ritual we had to perform, I encouraged Anelise to pose with Goofy for a picture. We bought her a Mickey Mouse balloon as a souvenir. The balloon was tied to the handle of a stationary bike Henry’s sister Sue gave to us. Magically, it survived for quite a long time, and was still floating in the living room more than two months later. The smiley face of Mickey continued to remind us of the day we visited his wondrous home. Disneyland was unique. As Walt Disney envisioned it, it was a world of fantasy. As I envisioned it, it was an entity erected by money. The castles we adored; the machines that launched us in and out or up and down; the souvenir-filled shops; the duty-bound workers; the large plot of land it sat on; the elaborate equipment; the powerful advertisements–it was all built by tremendous amounts of money. Without it, Disney couldn’t have created this fantastic and perfect world for us. It wasn’t free. People who were enchanted by it and enjoyed it paid a price in return.

This was a world of business, of a willingness to trade. It was a very large-scale example of capital exchange that, as a woman from a moderate family who grew up in a third world country, I couldn’t quite agree with. As I looked at the iconic picture on the park’s website with cartoon characters marching in front of a magnificent castle, another image popped into my mind in contrast. A kid squatting, eyes down, focused on something on the ground for a very long time. It was a long line of ants carrying pieces of food on their backs diligently marching down into their cave. That was me and my childhood playground — all without a Disneyland.

和剛出生的安祺「閉關」一個月下來,Henry要給我們一個新鮮的「出關」禮物。對我們這種外國人,何處會是新鮮又刺激的地方呢?他問我。我們想,在南加州最受歡迎的觀光地點,不出於迪士尼樂園、好來塢、環球影城這些地方囉。我們兩個大人是不在乎去那裡的,怡安這孩子想去那裡才是考慮重點。我們假設她和其他孩子一樣,肯定最喜歡去這個地方。「妳想不想去迪士尼樂園?」我們特別在最後面那個名詞上,加重了語氣。她興奮地點着頭,微笑開來的嘴裡露出了大門牙的缺囗。但是,我明白這個孩子,不管我們給她什麼,她都會點頭同意的。她年紀雖小,卻很成熟,從來不曾要求我們給她買東西。我們總是以一般孩子們的喜好,給她買東西。我們猜測,「迪士尼」可能是所有孩子們最喜愛的地方。

「沒問題,你們帶怡安好好去玩一天,安祺給我來照顧!」Henry姐姐Sue很熱心地鼓勵我們。因為有了她的好心幫忙,我們得以成行。很不好意思,我的產後體型依舊肥胖,只有孕婦裝還能上身。初秋的陽光極度明亮刺眼,整個世界起來不太真實。我們的小TOYOTA CAMRY很膽怯地衝上了多車道的高速公路,車行到那如蜘蛛網般,層層交疊的交流道處,我感到頭昏又恐懼。我們這部「菜鳥」車,游竄在那些充滿自信,高速衝刺的同儕中,顯得特別膽怯。每當那些超大貨櫃車轟隆隆地靠近我們,我得緊張地屏住呼吸。我心裡要大喊:「啊!不要過來,可千萬不要我們壓扁了!」終於,我們的目的地到了,這段苦刑已過!兩排雄偉的棕櫚樹排列在正門口兩邊,正門上有個大招牌,寫着:「世界上最快樂的地方。」那如海洋般廣濶,停滿了車子的超大停車場,讓我們目瞪口呆。我不禁嘆道:「在這個大陸上,每樣東西都是特大號!」付了兩張大人票62元美金,和一張兒童票25.5元後,我又嘆了一聲:「而且很貴!」之後,我們真正走進了這個幻想世界。(二十四年後的今天,票價是大人92元美金,兒童86元美金,貴三倍。)

這個地方無可置疑是個以想像力建構的世界。第一個進入眼簾的是色彩鮮豔的小型古堡和農莊,它們高聲宣告,我們進入了不同的時代和地點。哇!那不是我童年時代畫的圖畫嗎?那圓頂尖塔,那齒般的城牆外圍繞着色澤繽紛的飛揚旗幟。怡安和她的朋友們也喜歡畫這同樣的景緻啊!那些被我們畫出來的童話故事,總是有個美好的結局:一定會有一個英俊勇敢的王子,前來拯救一個美麗卻不幸的公主,然後他們得以永遠快樂幸福地住在這個城堡中。這些流行的西方童話故事, 不僅攻佔了無數的東方孩童 (我便是其中之一),其影響力依舊持續不斷,代代相傳。

但是,那對孩子心靈充滿吸引力的虛構世界,畢竟對我是起不了什麼作用。我記得小時候看迪士尼的卡通「白雪公主」和「辛得里拉灰姑娘」電影的時候,無趣到直打瞌睡。童年時代電視很稀有,想看電視得去鄰居有電視的家,或去商家店面,和一大堆孩子擠在一起看。孩子們對美國卡通片最熱中,但我最不喜歡的卻是卡通。我最恨那隻把貓追打到無處可躲的老鼠。我瞧不起那只能靠吃菠菜才有力氣的普派水手,我最恨那個只會耍霸凌的布魯托,我覺得那尖嗓怪叫的奧利維亞很幼稚。現在,當我站在這混合着童年記憶和造作出來的現實當中,我和自己說道:「嘿,還好啊!」我想,「我一直以來都太嚴肅了吧!」看哪:這園裡週遭,太人們都笑顏盈盈,孩子們都蹦蹦跳跳。人人都很快樂的樣子呀!小怡安緊緊抓着我的手,瞇着眼東張西望。我着得出,這個花花世界讓她有些昏頭轉向,眼花撩亂呢!也不知道她真的感覺如何,我便替她宣告:「現在,我們的腳已經踏在世界上最快樂的地方了!」

遊客們都穿著夏衣,雖然都是T 恤,短褲,和涼鞋,但形款可都不同。擦肩接蹱的人們,各形各色的人種,說着不同的語言,倒比那些遊戲和店鋪更吸引我的注意力。這些活生生的,移來動去的因子,賦予這個樂園一種異國的,但又是美國獨特的,特別的風味。我們的頭轉動不停,就像走動不停的腳,忙碌地朝着目標前去。一路上不斷碰到米老鼠、唐老鴨、布魯托⋯⋯等等。他們走來走去,忙着向人揮手,握手,或擺出最歡悅的姿態供人合照。老老少少都要上前和他們攀肩搭背一番。我想,來了這裡,得把現實擺一邊,讓想像力帶領你四處神遊啊!

乘坐遊戲的隊伍到處排好長,秋老虎的燥熱和我們疲累的腿更是要向我們的耐心挑戰。我常常得去上洗手間,這讓怡安的小心靈偷偷地擔心好久。她最近和我談起這段往事,才吐露了她的心情。她說:「我問爸爸為甚麼妳要常常去洗手間,爸爸說因為妳老了。我好擔心妳已經變老了!」這個人人安靜耐心地站著,規矩地排長龍的景象很讓我們佩服。我們在此見識到文明的現代社會,公共道德的具體呈現。現在的台北市居民排隊的禮貌讓捷運系統大大出名。但是想起三十年多前,在台北上公車,那大群人推擠著,爭險恐後的景象,仍心有餘悸。有一次我上了一個擠滿了人的公車,發現有人伸手探我的袋子,那人扒走了我的皮包。那時,我正要去參加我的第一個大學同學的結婚宴會,而我皮包裡正放著我從很不穩定的家教收入中,好不容易節省下來的紅包錢。沒想到,這整然有序的排隊,會讓我想起自己還是個窮學生的往事。

我們可能乘坐了許多遊戲,但是我記得的只有小飛象和快轉飛杯等。這些又高又快的遊戲,對小怡安來說是太刺激了。在鬼屋裡,大家尖叫不止,最恐怖的是那鬼怪突然坐到我們身邊來。怡安說她最喜歡的是小火車,而我最喜歡「這是個小世界」。我們坐在小車裡,被送進了一個拐來轉去的隧道裡,讓我們眼瞼一亮的是,好多可愛的小娃娃,穿著他們自己國家的服飾,站在滿是花朵的花園裡向大家招手。這時,他們歡快童稚的歌聲一路唱著:「這是個充滿歡笑,也充滿淚水的世界。這是個充滿希望,也充滿恐懼的世界。有太多事,我們要一起分擔;就在此時,我們要共同察覺;這個世界其實並不大!我們只有一個月亮,我們也只有太陽,但是一個微笑,卻代表無盡的友誼。雖然高山大海分隔了我們,這個世界其實並不大!」這首歌是我小時候參加合唱比賽的熱門歌曲,我還可以跟著用中文一路哼唱著。在這首世界名曲的出生地聽到它,是很興奮。「這裡是個小世界嗎?」我擠了擠坐在小車我身邊的小怡安,她很快樂地,點著頭,咧嘴笑著。

太陽漸漸失去威力,我們也很累了, 該回家了。如禮行儀,在離開之前,我鼓勵怡安和,,,,照個相留念。我們為她買了一個米老鼠的氣球做紀念,回家後我們把氣球綁在Sue送我們的運動腳踏車的把手上。這微笑的米老鼠就一直浮懸在天花板下,神奇的是,兩個多月後我們搬家了,他還可以跟著我們到新家去,繼續對著我們微笑,提醒我們不要忘了他那神奇的家園。迪士尼樂園是很獨特,它的創始人華德迪士尼看它是個迷人的世界。而我對它的定義卻不同,我認為它是個用金錢堆砌起來的想像世界。那奪人眼目的城堡,那載著遊客進進出出,上上下下的機動車,那堆滿了各色各樣商品的離品店,那眾多忙碌的工作人員,那一望無際的園區,那複雜的機械,那火熱的廣告,還有其他很多不可勝數的元素,都是用大量的金錢堆積起來的。沒有錢,迪士尼公司無法具體化它的想像,但是,這一切並非免費。迷戀它,喜歡它的人們,可得花不少錢,才能享受。

這是一個生意的世界,一個雙方同意,互相交易的世界。這個很大規模的金錢交換,在我這個從第三世界的中等家庭出身的女人看來,並不是心有所同的。我在迪士尼網站上看到這張圖片,那些卡通人物快樂地在睡美人美麗的城堡前齊邁步向前走。這時,突然有一個影像跳進我的腦海裡:一個孩子蹲在那兒,盯著地上看好久好久,哦,是好多螞蟻背著食物,整齊排列成一隊,努力地,邁步往它們的洞穴走去。那孩子就是我 — 不需要迪士尼樂園的我,和不是迪士尼樂園的,我的大自然樂園!