It had been a long day full of sunshine, sweat, and shoes soaked from the rapids of a raging theme park river. The boys were 20 minutes away from passing out with bellies full of pizza and the constant construction of lifelong memories being built inside their heads. We had said goodbye to friends, taken the last photos of the wondrous everything, and walked out of gates that are better rushed into. There was nothing left but a tram ride and the taking of it.
We walked across the bricks of the courtyard until we reached the one that we had purchased the week Zane had been born. That was seven years ago. It still rests where it always has, and until progress takes it away, always will. It is a tribute to trips taken, and it will one day serve as a memorial to the trips we still take, our names etched beneath the feet of pending grandchildren and those that follow, but today it’s a big dot on the map of our existence. It announces “YOU ARE HERE,” and our happiness is easy to find.
The man was old by most standards, though he seemed quite spry, and the twinkle in his eyes was as soothing as it was contagious. He stood beside Zane who was kneeling on his bare, tan knees in a sea of similar stones—an expanding forest of cement stumps with names carved upon them by those in various states of returning, and those that may never come again. The old man stood and watched with a smile both knowing and amused, and from time to time he glanced to me, my wife, and our older son, Atticus, who was watching Zane just as intently but twice as oblivious.
Finally, Zane looked up and noticed the man dressed in white leaning on a dustpan, his broom pressed tightly against it.
“Is that yours?” asked the man as he nodded toward the brick.
“Yes,” said Zane, and then he looked at the names once more. He traced each letter with his finger as he read them aloud.
“You know,” said the man, “they say that everything at Disneyland is magical.”
The boys didn’t move. My wife only nodded.
“These grounds are part of Disneyland. That means your brick is magic.”
We thought about that for a moment. Then the old man took something small and bright from the apron at his waist and held it between his thumb and forefinger for all to see.
“I found this new penny on these grounds. Right here. That makes it part of Disneyland, too. That makes it very magical.”
He bent down and held the penny in front of my son.
“Take a little bit of the magic home with you,” he said.
He handed the penny to Zane. He took it without hesitation, that in itself a rarity for a little boy that always turns sheepish at the word of a stranger. We sat there for a minute and watched him roll the penny around with his fingers before squeezing it tight in his palm and burying it at the bottom of his pocket.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
The old man nodded and swept at something that only he could see.
We walked away a little lighter, somehow fresher and somewhat new. It never dawned on any of us to turn back around.
I like to think that if we had the old man would not have been there. In fact, he probably disappeared the moment we turned. Magic is full of tricks like that, and across the grounds of Disneyland there is plenty enough for everyone.
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).