It’s a Small World

November 22, 2007
It was a parent’s nightmare. Relentless ear piercing voices sounded as we floated over the unsanitary waters of a murky cave. Much to their dismay, my family and I were on the “It’s a Small World After All” ride in Disney World for about the tenth time. My parents were soldiers; toughing out the experience they refer to as, “the most annoying ride in the world.” Jamie, my big sister, wearing the appropriate visor and fanny pack of the time period, seemed content enough, though maybe a little indifferent. I, however, being the ripe age of four, was enjoying every second of our boat ride. We were gloriously circling on a track through various scenes of multicultural lands equipped with plastic children mechanically jerking back and forth. And oh, the music. I just loved the cheery song playing throughout the ride and even had a copy of the song on a cassette back in Massachusetts. "It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all. It’s a small, small world..." Sure it was a tad bit repetitive but it was upbeat and easy for a toddler to remember the lyrics.

My family and I were sandwiched in the middle row of the little boat, which was holding about 16 other people too. It was mostly young children, and their parents, of course. Even if the classic ride was not all of the adults’ idea of fun, they had to admit that it was nice to be inside of a cool, air-conditioned building after long hours of being out in the brutal Florida heat. The ride was like a sanctuary for all of us who had been perishing in the scorching sun while standing in the many infinite lines of the theme park. When we had stepped into the shade and climbed aboard the boat, we had felt immediate relief as the icy air pouring out of vents came swiftly into contact with our perspiring skins. Of course, to get onto this ride alone had taken 45 minutes of waiting outside, but I had insisted that it was completely necessary to go on again.

As a small, brown-haired, hazel-eyed child, no doubt decked out in neon-colored 90s’ clothes, I bobbed my head side-to-side to the beat of the repetitious song that I loved and knew so well. The potent smell of dirty chlorine dispersed from the water, but as far as I was concerned, it was the smell of happiness. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the bright displays before us- colored lights, towering mountains, glamorous palaces, glittering flowers, and all different kinds of friendly-looking animals. There were even little displays of faux foods- plastic breads, pastries, and sweets that all looked simply mouthwatering. We were on a journey to India, Mexico, Hawaii, Sweden, China, and other exotic lands, all equipped with jolly child manikins smiling and performing just for us, all the while continuing the joyous melody: "It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all. It’s a small, small world..."

All was blissful and bright for a child like me, until suddenly, out of nowhere, the unthinkable happened. As our boat began turning the corner to bring us to the next world, everything turned to black. The power shut down, leaving our boat motionless in a dark tunnel between worlds, cutting off the lights, stopping the movements of the figurines, and silencing my favorite music.

“Ugh,” some adults sighed, grumbling softly to themselves.

“Oh, come on!” people complained, to no one in particular.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” my parents muttered.

Some of the children whined and yelped like they were scared and suddenly aware of the world’s dark side.

I abruptly stood up from my seat on the boat. I was going to have my song while we were on the ride; even if we were stuck; even if the speakers weren’t playing the music anymore.

I climbed on top of my seat and stood up tall, looking everyone on the boat over.

“It’s a sma! Sma! Sma! Small! Worrrrrrld!” I bellowed out theatrically, getting louder with each syllable sung as I raised my outstretched arms up over my head like a tiny-sized diva. I made the last word extra loud and dramatic and let the final note linger until I was out of breath. I took an inhale of air and everyone was happy again; clapping enthusiastically for the little four-year-old version of myself.

My silly display seemed to lighten everyone’s mood and my family looked around with that surprised, “kids say the darndest things” smile and sat me back down. Suddenly, we heard a click and our boat jerked forward slightly. The lights came back on, the music started back up, and our boat continued its journey into the next area, which I believe was France.

The ride ended with a happy display of colors and goodbyes and we still had the rest of the day ahead of us to enjoy the park. My parents say that they will never forget how I just stood up and sang to everyone and they never have. I haven’t either because it has become a personal reminder of how growing up changes everything over the years. It is important to holdfast to childhood- for when else can one simply sing a happy song in the face of disaster and receive an ovation from perfect strangers? But I had my 15 seconds of fame that day when I was four and I’ve got nothing to complain about. Sure it was only on a tiny boat in front of 20 people, but as far as I was concerned, everyone from around the globe was there. It is at any rate, just a small world after all.

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