I went to Disney with my wife's family this holiday season. They're fanatics - my wife has been there 19 times, and the rest of the family 14. I hadn't been there since 1989, and wasn't enthusiastic about it (other than having a week's vacation and spending time with Irish Spring's family, who are genuinely fun...when they're not behaving like lunatics in Disney's theme parks). I'd rather go see Paris than have a crepe in EPCOT France, and since the parks are designed for children (when I don't have any...yet), I didn't think I'd have a great time.
It turns out I had a better time than expected. Except for one day...the day we spent at Magic Kingdom.
When I was in second grade, Miss Ackerman had us write a short story. My story was titled, "Winnie the Pooh gets lost in the woods". It probably wasn't very good, but it had a point - that Winnie was a stupid little shit that couldn't figure out by opening his (its?) hand, Pooh could get the damn honey jar off. Somehow an entire story was built around this anthropomorphic bear being stupid as shit. I saw it for what it was, even at age 6. In my story, I killed him. Hell, if he couldn't figure out how to get a honey jar of his hand, he certainly couldn't survive getting lost in the woods, right?
That story earned me a trip to the school psychologist. I guess I was deemed safe to other students, and in the long run I forgave Miss Ackerman, probably because I had a crush on her. But I never lost my hatred for Pooh. Piglet was fine, Tigger was a coked-out lunatic, and I even named a student of mine Ee-yore. But the central figure of A.A. Milne's stories I still rejected.
On the third day on vacation, we spent the day at Magic Kingdom. My wife's family arrived at 8 am when the park opened, and rushed around making sure they hit all the rides before the crowds arrived. Irish Spring and I decided to sleep in, as neither of us thought it important to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at 8 am when sleep beckoned. We agreed to meet up with her family after their adrenalin-fueled morning for breakfast at the Crystal Palace Restaurant. Irish Spring's sister Fan Club President's eyes lit up every time one mentioned their breakfast buffet. We had reservations for ten.
My wife and I arrived a little late for circumstances that do not involve this story. What is pertinent is that the Milne characters were the mascots of the Crystal Palace. Tigger, Piglet, and yes...that stupid bear Pooh. My in-laws knew my hatred for Pooh, and made efforts to get Pooh to come to our table. I played along with it, running to the bathroom when Pooh got close, and made comments. I think I may have gone a bit too far - the In-Laws suspected I feared Pooh rather than hated.
In the end, Pooh came over to us and pictures were taken with it. I decided to make up for years of despising it. As Winnie came to me for a photo-op, I said, "Pooh, I've hated you for 43 years. I guess it's time we made up." I then gave Pooh a hug...sort of. As I leaned in, I failed to gauge how wide the mascot actually was. My head was around the back, and my left hand came to rest on Pooh's chest.
Here for years, I thought Pooh was a boy. My left hand could provide testimony that Pooh is, in fact, a female. Embarrassingly, I wound up groping a cartoon character.