By Jessica Fondo
Is Mickey Mouse a real mouse?
This is a question that mental health counselors ask children to try to determine how firm their grasp is on reality. Is the lovable and instantly recognizable cartoon character a “real mouse”?
For children growing up in a state known equally for its theme parks as its sunshine, vacations to Walt Disney World Parks are an almost universal childhood experience. Annual pass holders punctuate their year with trips to the parks, and traveling Floridians explain where their hometown is in terms of distance to Disney World.
The correct answer to the therapists’ question is, of course, no. Mickey Mouse walks on two legs instead of scurrying on four. He speaks in a high-pitched voice, but his sentences are far more complex than rodent squeaks. He wears pants and has a pet dog. He has his own motley crew of friends, and it almost feels like you could be one of them.
There are baby pictures of me toddling toward my grandfather in Epcot, and at family dinners, my mom tells the story of my cousin wandering off from us in Disney’s Magic Kingdom in quest of a pink princess hat. I took field trips to Disney World through high school, and the misting fans sold at Disney World are an understood reference when you’re wishing for relief in the heat of summer.
No, Mickey Mouse is not a real mouse, but for many Floridians, he is very real. He shaped our childhoods, and memories with him are as real as memories with any of our childhood friends or family members. Often, they even go hand-in-hand.