As a 30-year-old man with no children, I am inordinately excited to go with my wife to see the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival parade tonight.
Mostly because I get to see Mickey Mouse. I simply love that rodent.
The parade will last from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on North Michigan Avenue, from Oak Street to Wacker Drive. There will be Disney characters, floats, balloons and plenty of lights, capped off with a fireworks show. And if you can't be there in person, it will be shown live from 6 to 7 p.m. on ABC 7 Chicago.
And, best of all, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will be on the first float, leading the procession.
My good friend Mickey, I should say. We go way back.
I split my time growing up between Evansville, Ind., with my mother and Orlando, Fla., with my father. School year in Evansville. Summers in Orlando. My dad, my brother and a large contingent of my family still live in Orlando. Every time I visit them, a trip to Disney is a necessity. I've probably visited Disney World about 20 times or so.
And I just love it. It is mass commercialization at its finest and count me as bought in. I dig the characters. I dig the atmosphere. I dig the whole Happiest Place on Earth mumbo jumbo. If you close your eyes and ignore the heavily inflated prices and desperate attempts to sell you souvenirs, you start to think that maybe, just maybe, this really is the Happiest Place on Earth.
But for me, it's mostly about the memories. I loved spending summers in Florida with my dad while growing up. Visiting the beach. Visiting the theme parks. Visiting with family. Not being able to see my dad and the rest of my Orlando family during the school year, I treasured our summers together all the more. And Disney, the soul of Orlando, encapsulates all of that for me.
Seeing Mickey Mouse means more to me than admiring a mouse for being able to pull off red pants and a yellow bow tie so well. It reminds me of time with my dad and family. It reminds me of a childhood that was well spent despite divorced parents that were a thousand miles apart. It reminds me of how thankful I am for the wonderful family I have.
So, yes, it will be nice seeing you again tonight, Mickey. And I don't say that about many rodents.
Filed under: Joe Grace Columns