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Thursday Treasures

March 17, 2011 by Albert Gutierrez

My Own Private Magic Kingdom
by Albert Gutierrez

It was Christmas, 1988.  Actually, let's backtrack to a few weeks earlier.  It was an unspecified day in December, 1998.  I was three years old, and our family had just finished the visit to Santa at the mall. As we were walking through Macy's or some other department store, a bright and colorful box caught my eye.  It said in big bold letters that I couldn't read, "Disney Magic Kingdom Playset."  Right there, right in front of me, was a little bit of Disney.  A castle!  A genuine toy castle that was modeled after the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom!  Better yet, it came with Mickey and Minnie and Donald and the whole gang!  And there were a bunch of transportation vehicles that they could ride around in!  A horse, a bus, a train.  A TRAIN!  To a three year old, this is pretty terrific.  It's the best toy in the world.
And so, like any three year old, I point this magnificent toy out to Mom and Dad and tell them, "I want this.  Can we get it?"  Naturally, they have to say no.  My birthday was months ago.  Christmas was coming up and I'd be getting other toys.  There's no reason for me to have this playset now.  Not even the most important reason of all: I wanted it.

I was upset.  What more could a little kid do?  We walked past the display, and I'm not sure if I threw a minor tantrum or not.  I was a tantrum-y kid, I will admit it.  Then again, we had just visited Santa, and so I might have had that looming over my head, thus knowing I shouldn't protest.  And so, I reluctantly left the toy display and continued about my business until Christmas 1988 finally came.

The big Christmas party at our house made me forget about the toy.  I had no idea if I'd be getting it for Christmas or not.  I was too excited by the great big gingerbread house that one of our older cousins brought.  It had removable chocolate pieces that I would sneak every so often, hoping no responsible adult would catch me and tell me not to spoil my Christmas dinner.  And, of course, I was too excited that my other cousin brought his Nintendo over.  I wasn't allowed to play it, but watching them play was just as fun.  Plus, I was just happy that so many family members were here.  The more family members, the more presents.  The more presents, the more chances I could get that Magic Kingdom playset.  So yeah, I guess my mind was always on that toy.

It soon became time for the gift-giving.  Santa Claus emerged and all the kids took pictures with him.  He then started picking up gifts and announcing who they were for.  All the kids were anxious.  None of us could open a gift until they'd all been given out.  Imagine my joy when Santa picked up a big box and said, "And this one's for Albert!"  It was a big box!  It had to be Disney Magic Kingdom, it just had to be!  None of my other presents were as big, so obviously none of them were the playset.  The Disney Magic Kingdom Playset would be mine!

I couldn't just open this gift in front of all the cousins.  They'd want to play with it too, and I wanted some alone time with my Magic Kingdom before I'd have to share it.  So, I took the big-box-gift and sat myself down on the kitchen floor, next to the refrigerator, and tore at that wrapping paper.  Just as I hoped, underneath that paper was the Disney Magic Kingdom Playset.  The bright colorful pictures, the Mickey and the Minnie, the "Li'l playmates" logo.  I tore at the top of the box, a flimsy piece of tape held it shut.  As soon as I opened it, I managed to pull out the castle, and all the other bags of accessories came out as well.

My aunt Gayle came over and saw me struggling with some of the packaging.  My three-year-old hands couldn't open a couple bags that held the little figurines, so she did it for me while I concentrated on the bags with the car and train and horse.  As she took out each little figure, she'd ask which character this was, and I'd answer her.  When she had finished opening the bags for me, she left, and once again I had some alone time with Mickey and Minnie.

Of course, this didn't last long because my older cousin Lia then came over.  She saw that I had separated myself from the rest of the cousins.  Maybe because earlier, I was fighting with my little brother over a present and she had to separate us.  But no matter, she saw me playing and decided to join in.  She didn't care for Nintendo, so she wouldn't be joining the boy cousins with that.
Yep, that Magic Kingdom playset got a lot of playtime from me in my youth.  It served as a little home for my Disney figures, but unfortunately, I lost most of the little figures except for Pluto and a couple random people.  But I still have the castle and the cars, and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.  And the castle's seen other inhabitants as well.  PVC Disney figurines from Kellogg's cereal boxes.  McDonalds toys from the early 90s.  Even the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise during my "Star Trek" years.
For awhile the castle remained in storage in the basement until I found it again when I was a teenager.  I didn't have the heart to put it back in the basement, and so I set it on top of my wardrobe, where it's been sitting for the past eight years or so.  It's a nice way of keeping a bit of Walt Disney World in my life, as well as just being awesome to look at every day.


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