I was a really spoiled child. Like, had-a-Cabbage-Patch-Doll-in-1982-even-though-my-grandfather-was-working-two-jobs-to-afford-that-kind-of-shit spoiled. I had the set. up. let me tell you. My mom and I lived with my grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles, and then on the other side of the coin I had my other grandparents, who let me do shitty things like eat only the middles of Oreos and rub a brick of cheese on the front of the refrigerator because I had an "independent spirit." So, basically when I wanted something, I ended up getting it.
One of these things was a trip to Disneyworld, which I got during Christmas of 1985. I had just turned five, and things could not be better for a five-year-old than to spend actual Christmas fucking day at Disneyworld. Now, I'm not telling you all this stuff about my totally entitled childhood to make you super jealous. Although you should be, because my childhood was rad. I am just telling you all this so that you understand what was going on in my mind the day I did this horrible, horrible thing.
It went down at Epcot center, in the World Showcase section of the park. My grandparents and I were dining in the Aztec pyramid that represents Mexico on the tour of nations assembled around the vast central lagoon. As a five-year-old from the midwest who had been exposed to every variation of cheese-and-potato-potluck-dish under the sun, my palate was not impressed at the variety of flavors present in my Mexican dinner, so I asked my grandparents if I could leave the table and visit the little gift shop we saw on our way in.
Because my grandparents are too trusting of the world in general, they said, "Sure, Jenny, totally go to that little gift shop full of grown up strangers and breakable merchandise." And so, I went. The gift shop was very much like any Disney gift shop, full of toys and light up shit and t-shirts, but it also had a section of hand-worked glass items. I guess people are really optimistic about their chances of carrying an insanely fragile spiderweb of glass threads woven into the shape of a swan out of the park, into their luggage, through the airport and home. But it's not my place to judge what other people spend their money on.
I knew better than to touch. Lord, I knew better. I'd had my hands smacked at the grocery store more times than I could remember, and that was from touching yogurt and poking the beef tongues through the packaging. I couldn't help it then, can't help it now. I like the squish. But the point is, I knew so much better than what I was about to do. In fact, I wasn't even tempted to touch anything. It was a bunch of boring glass stuff.
Then, I saw it. A tiny glass unicorn with a gilded horn winking seductively up at five-year-old me. It had wings, too, so I guess that made it a pegasus. A unisus? A pegicorn? Something like that. It was a winged unicorn, and around the base of each wing dangled a wreath of glass flowers in sparkling, translucent pastels. This was pure magic, and I was totally unsupervised.
Well, unsupervised except for the lady standing next to me. I can remember everything about this woman. She had a long, brown trenchcoat on (remember, it was the week of Christmas, so it was actually kind of cold out), and her hair was that oddly unnatural honey-gold-brown color all the moms were dying their hair in 1985. It was long and swept up and into a banana clip. The nearest comparison I can give you to really illustrate what she looked like is, "Imagine Natalie from Forever Knight, but give her worse hair somehow." As she perused the glass objects, she would carefully pick one up, turn it this way and that, and then set it carefully back down, all the time sparing distrustful glances for the unsupervised five-year-old standing waaaaay too close to all this glass shit.
I decided that the best way to touch the unicorn and look like a serious customer would be to imitate what this lady had been doing. I reached out with authority, picked up the unicorn, turned it this way and that, and then, out of nowhere came an explosion of glass at my feet. In my careful turning about and examination of the unicorn, one of the little flower wreaths slipped off the wing and smashed spectacularly at my feet.
Now, I reached a critical moment, a time when seconds seemed to last for years. I had no idea how much the unicorn could possibly cost. A hundred dollars? A thousand? Three cents? I was five-years-old, I had no fucking clue how much baloney cost, let alone a stunningly crafted glass Epcot unicorn. I had these horrible visions of having to sit on a time-out chair in a circle of cold white light, while the dark, indistinct shape of Mickey Mouse loomed over me, demanding answers. Or would they send the big guns? Would they send Mary Poppins to shame me? Nothing could have frightened me more than the idea that Mary Poppins herself might show up to express her displeasure.
I put the unicorn down with the speed and dexterity of a 19th century urchin picking pockets, pointed my chubby little finger directly at the lady beside me (who had seen the entire thing go down) and shouted at the top of my lungs, "WHAT DID YOU DO?!"
Every eye in the gift shop turned to this poor lady, holding a miniature spun glass teapot, who was standing awfully close to a lot of broken glass on the floor. That was my moment. I ran out of the shop as fast as I could, and never looked back.
I'm aware now, as an adult, that the consequences for breaking that unicorn at Disneyworld were probably going to be somewhere between "nothing" and "extra nothing." It's Disney. They expect there will be kids there, and I'm sure they expect that shit is going to get broken. But I didn't know that at the time. And just to be sure, when we took my son to Disneyworld in 2007, we cautiously avoided the Mexico pavilion.