You think of him as ageless, but he isn't. Brace yourself: he's quickly approaching 90 years old. It's been that long since this truly mighty mouse stepped up on the American stage and became one of the most recognizable figures of the 20th century.
It's early, but all around America right now Moms and Dads are waking up kids who already have their bags packed for Orlando, for Disney World, where they'll be greeted I'm sure by some 21st-century replica of the mouse with the squeaky voice. Go to any airport in America at this moment, and you'll easily pick out the families who are on their way.
My earliest memories of a TV are afternoons coming home from school, then plopping myself down on the living room floor to watch the Musketeers peel off, one after another, saluting me personally with their names--including a huge guy named (lower your voice) Roy. I can sing the song that broke my heart every day:
M-I-C (see you real soon)
K-E-Y (why? because we like you)
That was 1955. Even now, I get to the end, and I feel so abandoned I reach for the Kleenex.
Mickey's hero status prompted all kinds of parody. Still today, the phrase "Mickey-Mouse" (as in "that offense is real Mickey Mouse") marks whatever it modifies as silly, cheap, just about downright worthless.
No matter. Irrepressible Mickey laughs all the way to the bank. He's an icon. Everyone knows Mickey and loves his spirit.
His bouncy optimism is persistently American, some say, his never-say-die spirit awash with the kind of idealism that made this country great. You can knock down this pipsqueak and his cartoon life, you can bad mouth his lavish abodes in Florida and California, but he comes back walking on air, as he is here, wearing a sweet and toothless smile. This is a mouse who can take a hit, a mouse no one on earth has ever has run from.
Even though they're both cartoon figures, Mickey Mouse is just about the polar opposite of Donald Trump, a big man with his own theme parks. Mickey's no better a candidate for President than the Donald, but he's a far better mouse.
He's just about 90 years old now, but that's no cause to weep. He hasn't lost a step. In this bizarre political season, we could use a whole stadium full of his smiles. He could bring it too.
"Angels fly because they take themselves lightly," or so wrote G. K. Chesterton. Mickey knows that.
I'm the one who needs to be reminded.