Consuelo and her family were leaving the Magic Kingdom. Consuelo did not get her hug from Merida, and she did not have any fun. Mother and Aunt Lola had made her ride each attraction alone. Consuelo was happy to do this, since she really didn’t want to be around them, or Father, or her brother, Juan. She sat rather dejectedly on Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean and let each moment pass her by. She just wanted to go home. She was going to wait patiently for this vacation to be over, then go home and sleep in her own bed and dream of being anywhere other than with her family.
This was their last night in Disney World, and tomorrow she would happily get on a plane and return to her normal, hopeless life. There would be no more dreaming of a hug from Merida. There would be no more believing that she had even one single friend in this world. She would go back to being Consuelo, the sad girl from Brookfield, IL.
But first she must endure one last night of this cruel journey. Consuelo and her family stood on the boat launch outside the Magic Kingdom, waiting for the little motor boat that would take them across the lagoon and back to the Polynesian resort. A little down the dock, Consuelo noticed an egret resting standing on a wooden post. It was slender, tall, and an almost shimmering white. She walked toward the bird, a short way away from her family.
As she approached, the egret spoke to her. “Why are you so sad, Consuelo?”
Now Consuelo was quite surprised at first that the animal spoke. But she quickly reasoned that she was in Disney World and if Mickey and Donald and Goofy could all speak, why not this magically white egret as well? She blurted out the full story of how she came to Disney World with her family and hoped to meet Merida and get a hug from her and how her hopes were now tragically dashed.
“My name is Johanna,” said the egret, “and I know of one Scot in this magical place who loves you and would like to meet you. Would you like to meet her, Consuelo?”
“Yes, very much!” Consuelo exclaimed with hope in her heart. Could there really be somebody out there that would love her and give her a hug?
“Then you shall meet her in your dreams,” said Johanna. And with that, the great egret spread her wings and flew off, back into the Magic Kingdom, over the train station and far out of view.
Consuelo was confused and a bit upset. She did not want a make believe friend in her dreams. She wanted a real friend she could hug and laugh and joke with, just like everyone else she knew had. Why had the bird taken off like that? She had many questions, not the least of which was how she would find this magical friend. Soon the boat arrived and Consuelo’s family climbed in. There wasn’t enough room for her, so she had to wait for the next boat. She knew her family well enough to know that they would take the time without her to run off to dinner, leaving her behind. But Consuelo was okay with this, since she hoped Johanna would return and answer her questions. Johanna didn’t reappear though, so Consuelo boarded the next boat and sailed off across the lagoon, quite puzzled by the entire situation with the egret.
She returned to the hotel room and sure enough, her family was nowhere to be seen. She popped on her headphones and cranked Three Dog Night and waited, and waited, and waited. She was growing quite tired and while she listened to her favorite song, Shambala, sleep washed away her sorrow…
Johanna greeted her on the balcony of her hotel room. Johanna spread her wings and Consuelo knew she wanted her to do the same. But Consuelo didn’t have wings, or did she? Yes! She had a pair of hot pink, glittery wings! She spread them and, having never flown before, nervously jumped off the balcony with Johanna. But she soon realized there was nothing to be nervous about—flying was as easy as breathing to her now. She and Johanna sped across Seven Seas Lagoon toward the Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland. Johanna motioned for them to land at the base of the tree.
“Climb to the top of the tree, Consuelo. There you will find her,” said Johanna.
Consuelo was a bit hesitant—after all, it was night and she didn’t know what exactly she would find a the top of the tree—but she did as she was told and began to climb the steps into the tree. The impeccably themed staircase seemed impossibly high.
Consuelo climbed and climbed and climbed. She was unsure of how far she had gone or how far she had to go. She stopped briefly to take in the view of the castle and Space Mountain. Consuelo found herself aching to stay in this magical place forever. But she knew that this was only a dream and that dreams can only endure if you sleep through life. So, Consuelo began to climb again. Finally, she reached the top of the tree and waited. Where was the friend Johanna spoke of?
Rather slowly, the tree began to pulse with light. The leaves became a white and soothing glow, the branches radiated with warmth, and the floor grew brighter and brighter until it was finally a blinding light. Consuelo had to close her eyes. When she shut her eyelids she heard the sound of a woman.
“Welcome to my home, Consuelo,” said an ethereal, soothing voice from behind the downtrodden girl.
“Who are you?”Consuelo asked, her eyes still clamped shut, though she could sense that the light had diminished.
“My name is Tilda—Tilda Swinton—and I am Mother of all creatures that call Walt Disney World home,” said the woman.
Consuelo was confused and curious and opened her eyes slightly. Standing before her was a slender woman dressed in white with piercing eyes and a very… modern… hairstyle. She wore a long, flowing nightgown that shimmered and sparkled just like the egret, Johanna. Consuelo knew immediately that she could trust this woman named Tilda.
“Johanna brought me to you, but why am I here?” asked Consuelo. “Why aren’t we awake and sipping tea or playing with beach balls like the girls in my school?”
“You are here because you are unloved, and I am love. I love all unloved things, like Stitch’s Great Escape, George Clooney, and Consuelo. But we are here in your dreams because that is the only way you have to reach me, Consuelo. I exist only here, in Disney World, and in the beyond,” Tilda replied with a graceful wave of her hand.
“The beyond?” Consuelo asked.
“That place between reality and dreams. That is where we are now, Consuelo. You aren’t actually dreaming, though I’m sure that is what it may seem to you. We are here, in that space in between, where the things that you wish for so hard become very nearly real. So what is it, Consuelo, that you have wished for so much that you have spun into reality?”
“I… I think… maybe… I think maybe that I’ve wanted a friend so badly that I am here because you and Johanna are now my friends and this is the place where we can be together.”
“Yes,” said Tilda with a knowing smile. “Yes, I do believe that is the case. You are here with friends now, Consuelo. What would you like to do now?”
“May I have a hug, Ms. Tilda?”
Tilda nodded and opened her arms wide. Consuelo rushed forth into the loving embrace.
“Now listen to me, Consuelo. You are beautiful and wonderful, and if you ever need love, simply dream of this happy place and I’ll be here.”
Tilda kissed Consuelo on the forehead and vanished into white light.
Consuelo woke up and smiled. She had a friend at last. Consuelo found love. Consuelo found Tilda.